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Hidden places of the North of Paris


01-18eme.jpgOn Friday evening we meet with a guide Axelle by the metro Max Dormoy in the north of Paris. In a part of Paris which is much more coulourful than other parts of the city. Our walk in the 18th "arrondissement" starts on the boulevard de la Chapelle, in front of the church of Jeanne d‘Arc, on the place where in the past the royal corteges were passing, where the king used to go to Saint Denis for the royal banner. On this place passed the funeral cortege when the king died. Jeanne d’Arc stopped here to pray and on her honour was built a church with her name "Eglise Jeanne d’Arc".

Axelle explains to us that under our feet there is a stone quarry and that’s why it was difficult to construct buildings here. Under the church of Jeanne d’Arc there are 30 back-up pillars. Around the church we get to a small park "Square de la Madone" with a source of a drinking water, non-processed, without chlorine. The inhabitants of this section come here with dozens of bottles to fill them with water. There are two sources of drinking water in Paris, the second one is in the southern section of Paris, called Butte-aux-Cailles.
02-18eme.jpgIn the section "de la Chapelle" in the 19th century there used to be held in June a huge market, the biggest in France. Thousands of merchants were coming from all over the country, selling art objects, cattle and parchment for the Sorbonne students. In 1860 "la Chapelle" was connected to Paris, the market disappeared because big abattoirs were built close to la Villette.
The indoor market is today called "Marché de l’Olive". Olive was the name of a colonizer of the Guadeloupe island in the 17th century. In order to forget the colonizer past, a small grammatical change was made, and the street "rue l’Olive" became "rue de l’Olive", that means the Olive street and not the street of Olive as a person. The market with the street "rue de l’Olive" is the heart of this city section, the local people recognize each other when they come shopping, they greet each other and discuss together.
03-18eme.jpgThe next stop of our commented visit is a modernized industrial building of the Pajol Hall, built in 1920. For a long time it served as a deposit of a railway company SNCF and nowadays it is one of the trendy leisure places of Parisians. The wooden fasade of this ecologically designed building is completed by metal constructions above the garden space with biodiversity. It is a place where the young come to hang out, sit, chat, listen to the music, smoke. In this building there is also a library named "Bibliothèque Vaclav Havel", gym and several bars.
In the street Ordener we stop in front of the house number 3, where from 1913 lived Paul Eluard, a poet known by all the French students thanks to his poem "Liberté, j’écris ton nom" (Liberty, I write your name). A poem which in 1942 was distributed in thousands by a foreign army, spread by the British planes above the occupied French territory.

04-18eme.jpgWe come to the section "Goutte dor" (in translation Drop of gold), an immigration section, full of colours. Since the 19th century the workers coming to Paris from various provinces were settling here. Later an immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe followed. Then the emigrees from colonies, immigrants from African Subsaharian countries. Then immigrants from Asian countries, the Middle East, Egypt and Palestine. In this part of the city settled people who did not have money to stay in the centre of Paris.
We get to the staircase leading to another old railway warehouse, which has been transformed to a trendy place of Parisians. The premises of the warehouse changed to bars, dancing floor, several terraces with tables, deck chairs for sunbathing, ping-pong tables, hen houses. People are sitting on the rails covered by grass, drink beer and live their Parisian evenings. The Friday evening attracted the whole mosaic of Paris, young people, parents with small children, elderly people, T-shirts and jeans, elegant summer dresses, tennis shoes and fancy high heels shoes, various languages.
In the street Simplon our guide shows us a Serbian orthodox church "Saint-Sava". When Tito opened the borders, Serbian immigrants who came to Paris borrowed the chapel of Romanian church and when it started to be too tight, in the 80-ies of the last century this church Saint Sava was built.
05-18eme.jpgIn 1850 Napoleon III and baron Haussmann decided to create around Paris a railway for transportation of goods. 32 kilometres railway around Paris was called "la petite ceinture" (small belt) and was used also during the Universal Exhibition "Exposition universelle". In the 30-ies of the last century this railway was abandoned and has remained unused till today. At present the city is considering various projects of resuscitation.
We are on the place where the guided visit ends and the Parisian night begins. We enter the hall of the former station of the "small railway belt" - "La Gare Ornano". Today the station building is known as "Recyclerie" - a bar, restaurant, meeting place, mixture of cultures, nationalities, people. There are all ages, from a baby, on whose face fall the chips eaten by his father drinking a beer with friends, young people living more outside than inside, elderly people with young spirit. One has a feeling that the whole Paris is here, a mosaic of the whole world. Everything is recycled, old objects are given back to life, waste is used, chickens are grown here, fish swim in the pond, beer is served generously, people drink by the old rails covered with grass. There is also a workshop for restoring and repairing old furniture and lamps. A pleasant stop for a morning coffee, Sunday brunch or endless Parisian evenings.

Source of information: guide Axelle from the Parisian blog ParisZigZag.