I love ethnic dining in Paris, and I love exploring Paris neighborhoods even more, so as I was reading Barbra Austin’s article on bo bun at Le Petit Cambodge, in the 10th Arrondissement, I nearly ran out the door on an excursion that promised some excellent food and the chance to rediscover one of the trendiest, most vibrant Paris neighborhoods: Canal St.-Martin.
You may recognize Canal St.-Martin from the blockbuster French film Amélie. The main character, Amélie, spends time walking along the canal’s placid waters, with heart-achingly charming green bridges spanning the background. The sidewalk along the canal is wide and borders the waterway itself, making a perfect place for picnics and romantic moments.
This is a neighborhood in transition, where industrial courtyards sit next to private homes (actual homes, not just apartment buildings). The people here seem more colorful: today I saw a 40-something mom in a tutu, the toy rifle of her cowboy-attired son slung over her shoulder, and a grandmother in a red dress with a wide cloth polka-dot scarf that doubled as a headband, framing her pixie face and streaming down her back.
Chez Prune is a popular café on a wide corner, where local stars sit knee to knee with laborers and large families. The historic Hôtel du Nord was so charming, I almost wanted a second lunch but had to settle for a coffee, which I drank as Vélibiens of all ages and descriptions pedaled by. The Artazart bookstore, my favorite resource for great design ideas, is nearby, as is the colorful, eclectic boutique Antoine et Lili. There are vintage shops and all kinds of hidden gems to discover as you stroll along the canal.
Today I began my walk at the rue du Faubourg du Temple and headed north along the canal to the rue Louis Blanc, but some bright day, I plan to begin at the Seine, following the barges at the Arsenal and continuing all the way to the Parc de la Villette, then taking the Canal de l’Ourcq up and out of the city. That will have to be on a Sunday, when the streets are closed to through traffic, making the city a paradise for cyclists, skaters, bladers and families, creating the perfect atmosphere for discovering Paris neighborhoods.
36, rue Beaurepaire, in the 10th Arrondissement.
01 42 41 30 47.
Editor’s note: Do you want to discover other areas of Paris that you might not know, such as Montmartre, Pigalle or the 16th Arrondissement? Then download our walking tours, available as iPhone apps or downloadable pdfs. You can even discover the Paris of Audrey Hepburn or Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.