On Sunday morning I grabbed a Vélib bike and had a look at the opening of the Place de la Républic, after a year and a half of renovations.
2016 Update: Place de la République is very, very different after the Charlie Hebdo murders and the Nuit Debout demonstrations. This proved to be a brief moment of beauty and tranquility in a troubled world.
I decided then to explore the brand-new 3b tram line that runs from Porte de la Chappelle to Porte de Vincennes. Any line with stops for both Rosa Parks and Ella Fitzgerald is worth a look! I finally got to see the Canal Saint-Denis, a wide canal branching off the Canal d’Ourcq, with quais similar to those along the Seine. It seems like an under-developed resource, but not something you have to rush over to see. More interesting was the Parc de la Butte du Chapeau Rouge (“Park of the Hill of the Red Hat”) near Porte de Pantin, which I have noticed on the map for years but never quite gotten up to. I entered with some trepidation: Would it be run-down, even dangerous? Would I be menaced by homeless people and/or desperate drug addicts? Um, no and no.
It was a lovely neighborhood place, filled with picnicking families.
I then strolled along rue de Mouzaïa towards Parc des Buttes Chaumont. I couldn’t help noticing a steep little alleyway running up to the left called Villa Félix Faure. As a true flâneur I strolled up it and was delighted by the cute single-family houses, trees and especially flowers. Continuing towards Buttes Chaumont along rue de Bellevue I encountered another Villa running down that was even prettier. A nice guy at the bottom, chatting with a neighbor, smiled and told me to keep going left and right — there were seven Villas in a row, and I now see on the map that there are even more down the hill.
Here’s a photo set of La Mouzaïa – Villas of the 19th Arrondissement. Whenever I get back there I’ll add a few more since I saw less than half of the villas in the area.
My plan had been to get to Rosa Bonheur before 4:30, which by past experience gets you in before they put up the barriers and force you to wait in line. I hadn’t figured, however, on the fact that this was the first really nice Sunday, so the barriers had already gone up by 4. I was bemused to see that friends kept joining the people ahead of me in line, so one guy quickly became four! I texted Colin to offer him the same courtesy in case he hadn’t gotten there yet, but he and his entourage had arrived at 3 and were happily ensconced inside. Paradoxically, people in line have the power to add as many friends as they wish, but once you’re in all you can do is commiserate. (Colin didn’t actually say this, but I’m sure he was désolé that I was stuck in the line.)
After waiting 45 minutes and seeing the line move only a few feet I abandoned ship and headed home to get ready for the Harvard LGBT alumni dinner that evening, on David Johnson’s fabulous terrace.