After nearly 2 years of crippling traffic jams in the neighborhood, Paris finally unveiled the “new” Place de la Republique. Basically it eliminated traffic passing on the north side of the square and created two way traffic down the “Grands Boulevards“. From a traffic point of view, the few times I have driven in the area, it seems a bit more fluid (but needless to say, Magenta remains extremely problematic because of the weaving of the bus and car lanes). For parents with kids, the new arrangement is very positive. There is loads of space with jungle gyms and such. On the west side of the square, there is café with tons of magazines to read and a wading pool for the kids just next to it. I think a couple could spend a nice afternoon walking along the Canal St Martin, then walking down to the place via rue Faubourg du Temple, and enjoying a café while the kids run and play in the wading pool.
Once the kids are with their grandparents or sitter for an overnight, the weary parents can get up in the morning, lounge around and then head to the Marché des Enfants Rouge for lunch. Sometime like five years back, this small market across from the Mairie du 3ème was converted from a sleepy expensive neighborhood market (re-opened about when I moved here about 16 years ago) to a wonderful covered market full of little sidewalk-style restaurants. Walking around, it feels like Asia or South America in those street markets with loads of food stalls. The variety of vendors is excellent: lebanese, italian, creole, moroccan, a delish burger stand which I neglected to review some time back – check the butcher stand in the back on the right where there is a burger counter along the back wall, the place has no name adding to its charm – that is good, an excellent baker that also makes the most incredible crepes, wraps, and sandwiches (another auxiliary idea: take a sandwich and grab a Vélib…hold on, I’ll get back to that idea in a minute), and a Japanese bento joint. You should just walk around and pick something – it is all really good. The expresso at the Italian place just across from the bento place is great and as mentioned already, the sandwiches at the breadstand are yummy and relatively cheap. It is a hidden treasure in the City of Lights.
Another idea: biking. Now the classic suggestion would be to grab a Vélib and just tool around Paris. Something a bit more adventurous but just as fun: take the Metro to Ourcq, walk to the Canal and under the aqueduct (the old Petite Ceinture) there is a bike rental place called A.I.C.V. They have a great selection of bikes for prices that are more than reasonable. My suggestion, take a 3h rental (armed with your sandwich from the guy at the Marché des Enfants Rouge) and head north. You will pass through Parc de la Villette and under the peripherique to the wonders of the northern burbs. Stay on the left side of the canal most of the way – particularly with the abandoned factory building on the right side – and you will pass a TGV repair station (Technicentre Est Paris), a communal park, under the A86 and A3 (at which point you are obliged to cross the canal) on towards Aulnay-sous-Bois. At about 3km past the A3, you will see on the left side a nice little café called “Le Chat qui Pêche”. It is a typical “guinguette” complete with a small orchestra and some older couples dancing inside. The bar itself is an old “peniche” (or “canal boat”) landed and converted into a restaurant/bar. At this point, turn around and head back and you should be able to make it under the 3h of your bike rental.
Stay tuned for more original ideas for enjoying Paris, with or without the little monsters.
- Paris mayor praises beauty of revamped Place de la République (guardian.co.uk)
- Streets meeting at the Place de la République (carriesolaikablog.wordpress.com)
- What to do when it is hot in Paris (parisgeek.com)