Paris is, well, PARIS. There’s no denying its mystique and cultural significance. At some point in history Paris has dominated every sphere of human activity. It’s late 19th century renovation inspired changes all over the world and it has served as the epicenter of Western fashion since clothes became more than utilitarian garb. It is simply impossible to describe all of the elements that make this city so exceptional; I’ve barely skimmed the surface while vacationing there on several occasions. Some beautiful photos discovered on a French photography blog:
I regard Paris very similarly to New York City, arguably the two most important metropolises in the world (metropoli should be the plural of metropolis!). Both cities have expansive and dense cores surrounded by even more expansive peripheral communities. Both cities are incredibly demographically diverse; the full spectrum of ethnicity and socioeconomic status is spread across the many and varied neighborhoods. Both cities are considered to be the foci of taste and culture, home to the world’s finest museums, shops, galleries, restaurants, etc. And both cities suffer from the problems characteristic of any heavily-populated urban center: safety concerns, ethnic and social strife, and a jaded population set apart from the rural masses.
On my last day in the City of Lights, I discovered a real gem. I typed in “Hipster Paris” into Google and found a New York Magazine article on how to “Hang with the Hipsters in Paris.” It recommended a foray into a rougher up-and-coming neighborhood in the 20th arrondissement; and as I’ve learned from my travels, a city’s hipster hood is usually the ‘rough up-and-coming neighborhood’ on the verge of gentrification, so I didn’t question NY Mag’s advice.
La Bellevilloise sits atop a tall hill of dirty warehouse, commercial, and apartment blocks punctuated with a smattering of super-trendy little bistros and galleries. This enormous entertainment complex has become a fixture in Paris’ music scene, featuring independent and well-known musicians alike. It occupies the buildings of a historic indoor foods market and olive oil factory, replete with spectacular iron structural members and traditionally carved sculptural reliefs. Its website provides a breakdown of it’s halls and galleries, but its restaurant is perhaps its greatest space. The restaurant occupies La Halle Aux Oliviers, or the hall of olives, a huge greenhouse like space reminiscent of the great iron exhibition halls of the 1851 London World’s Fair. The hall is anchored by a solid wood bar and small stage on which local musicians serenade diners seated at tables built around olive trees. The mood lighting, light French indie music, and live olive trees create a resplendent environment in which to dine on quintessential Parisian fare and watch for Paris’ trendsetters.