What do I love about Paris? The details. I am très contente walking new neighborhoods, looking closely at the particulars and discovering what differentiates them from other parts of the city.
The best way to learn a new neighborhood is to live there – and this trip I’m staying in an apartment in the 14th.
Coming and going gives me a chance to study a few streets in depth. I pass at different times of day, in sun and in rain, when I’m hungry, when I’m tired, on weekends and work days.
I follow new streets, too, to see where they go. Today, a trip to the store for milk lasted 2 hours.
Here are a few of my favorite finds:
• The eastern end of Rue Daguerre is lined with food merchants – bakers, butchers, green grocers – and cafés that are hopping day and night. On Sundays, the street is closed to traffic, and neighbors take to the narrow rue en masse.
• My favorite square, Place Flora Tristan, has benches, trees, a café, and a 6-story white building with a red door and carved Art Deco letters that say “Boulangerie.” Its namesake was a 19th century feminist and woman of letters.
• Rues Gaité, Didot and Raymond Losserand are lively streets, with ethnic restaurants and small shops.
• Cimetière du Montparnasse spans 8 city blocks, and is enclosed by 10-foot-tall rough stone walls. Famous performers and politicians are buried here (I stumbled upon singer Serge Gainsbourg, existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre, and Aristide Cavaille-Coll, who made the finest organs in Paris.) Containers for the afterlife run from rococo to zen.