I know Paris is beautiful. The stately buildings, the wide boulevards, the pretty parks and of course the bridges over the Seine, hung with many, many love locks (So many, that in fact all the weight is threatening to make the bridge collapse. The mayor had to order them to be cut away. Not that it helps, new couples keep affirming their eternal love for each other with a lock every day!).
Sometimes you need a break from all of this picturesque prettiness. To wander in a different world so to speak. And so we went to the 13th arrondissement, filed with the (sorry to say) ugliest flats you can imagine. Build in the seventies, before the construction companies realized that in fact, no one wanted to live there. Well, there was one group that was interested, new immigrants and refugees, mostly from Asia. Looking for a better life, they were willing to settle for the huge towers that seem so far away from the cute streets most tourists come to see.
And so this area quickly became known as le Quartier Chinois (Chinatown), were you’ll find many stores selling exotic products and an seemingly endless offer of all sorts of Asian restaurants. It’s not just the different building style that makes you feel like you’re no longer in Paris, the whole neighborhood has a different atmosphere. Almost unlike Europe, and more as if you were in the streets of Bangkok (well, the fact that we visited this quartier while it was one of the hottest days of the year might also have contributed to that…).
Visiting the quarter for just one afternoon, felt like a sort of mini holiday. We walked the streets, passing by street vendors who did not speak a word of French, and visited one of the biggest Asian supermarkets (Tang Freres) on Avenue d’Ivry.
Where you can buy duck tongues and fermented black rice (anyone who knows what to do with that?). But also pretty china or stinky durian. I think we wandered in that supermarket for more than an hour, all the while telling each other to ‘come see this!’ and ‘ooh, what’s that?’.
We ended our visit with a great (very late) lunch at Savannakhet on Avenue de Choisy, a Thai restaurant that we picked quite randomly. And what a lucky guess that was, we ate truly delicious Pad Thai and green curry, just I like I remember from holidays in Thailand.
I also recommend New World, for some good Hong Kong Chinese food, or scorching hot Szechuan dishes. Don’t expect a charming restaurant, but the service is good and the food delicious. A little warning, the starters are huge, order one to share if you want to keep a bit of room for your main!
If you have some more time to spend in Paris and you feel like seeing something else than the Eiffel tower or Sacre Coeur, this area might just be what you’re looking for. A different side (and taste!) of Paris.
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