Recently, my neighbor said he hadn't crossed the river in fifteen years. I thought he was joking, but sometimes I'll mention something I think Parisians should know- like Square Gardette or Rue Crémieux- and nobody's heard of it. An unsettling number of people I meet visit Pasco or Le Tourville for a night out. When shopping, they head to Le Bon Marché, if they're feeling adventurous. It's not limited to our neighborhood, either. French people often ask me for directions, and when I ask where they're from, reply, "Paris." My friend Joanna says people think, since I'm a tourist, I explore streets and sights longtime residents don't normally visit (my own husband never went to the top of the Eiffel Tower). "Parisians don't know Paris," says my husband's friend Emmanuel. "They stick to their little area, and that's all they understand."
Because we're developing these tendencies ourselves- lately, anything further than Beaugrenelle is too much for me- my husband and I make it a point to wander less-touristy neighborhoods on weekends. Don't worry, I'm not trying to turn this into a photo blog! I just thought it might be helpful to share some of our favorite places.
Start at Square Juliette Dodu, where you can grab a bento from gluten-free, paleo food truck Chasseurs Cueilleurs. Walk up Rue Saint-Maur to Rue Jean-Marie Moinon for dedicated gluten-free, organic atelier Papy Bio, which offers two-hour macaron, baguette, or pizza-making classes, using authentic Italian methods. He was standing on the street when I took these pictures and teased me for being a tourist. "All the buildings are cute and colorful," I protested. He pointed a street over, to Rue Sainte-Marthe. "C'est mieux," he said.
Rue Sainte-Marthe is an explosion of color. Brazilian, Mexican, and Jamaican restaurants with brightly painted storefronts sit side by side with artist studios and hot dog stands. On one end, you have Lula, a concept lifestyle shop and restaurant offering gluten-free brunch every Saturday, to rave reviews. A little further down is La Tête dans les Olives, which turns into a one-table restaurant every night, with a waiting list of a month or more. The owner, Cedric Casanova, makes delicious gluten-free foccacia and sources amazing ingredients from Sicily, supplying Chambelland, Alain Ducasse, and the Plaza Athenée with food. Last time we went, he made us sample generous spoonfuls of olive oil before filling our bottle from the tap. We washed everything down with fresh-squeezed lemonade, buying basil flowers and green oranges, unpackaged in our own produce bags.
Across the street, at 5 Rue Sainte Marthe, is an artist's atelier straight out of a Tim Burton movie. Ring the bell to discuss meubles sur mesure- colorful robotic mobiles, mechanical fish, oversized chess tables, etc. Past Place Sainte Marthe, Geneviève de Divonne's Ebénisterie sainte Marthe offers beautiful, custom wood furniture and restoration services, supervised by the resident black cat. There are restaurants, record stores, and good places for rhum punch here, and the entire street gets decked for Fête de la Musique.
Set between Canal Saint-Martin and Belleville, Rue Sainte-Marthe is the perfect jumping off point to explore the last authentic neighborhoods in Paris. For my favorite addresses by arrondissement, click here. For gluten-free metro and guide maps, click here and here.
P.S. The lady in the Tête dans les Olives picture? Super expensive Levi's jean skirt, Maison Bonnet glasses, and vintage Hermès bag, which- correct me if I'm wrong- seems like a pretty typical outfit for that neighborhood. Those streets were originally constructed for workers. It's funny to see how gentrification changes things. She was insufferable, by the way, and stepped on an elderly woman's foot on her way out. Poor Cedric looked relieved when she finally left, though he was too nice to say anything about it!