11th arrondissement: a day in my old stomping grounds

I once lived in the 11th arrondissement before it became trendy. My first place was a 270 sq. foot studio I rented rue Alexandre Dumas, for almost two years. It was cramped, dark and damp (the only window faced north.) It had no proper kitchen. Like an afterthought,  a two-burner electric cooktop, small sink, and small fridge were tucked to the side of the short hallway connecting the front door to the main living area. A small bathroom with a narrow standing shower completed this attractive package. It was not much, but it was mine, as long as I came up with the rent money each month, my first taste of independence since I had lived on an American campus in Atlanta, GA, a few years earlier. I was already in my mid-20s then. It was not unusual for young Parisians to continue living at their parents’ because they couldn’t afford their own place. Things have not changed that much in the French capital I suspect. As an up-and-coming young executive working for American Express France, I loved my neighborhood, conveniently located near la place de la Nation, a public transportation hub, between two Metro stops, and a 10-minute walk away from a good friend’s apartment, rue de la Forge Royale. We worked together  and commuted to Rueil Malmaison daily. I look back fondly on these years, the friendships I made at work, the paycheck that came in every month and was enough to go out, catch a movie or two, and enjoy lively dinners at small local restaurants several times a week. Life was busy but good, and everything seemed possible. In April, while vacationing in Paris, I returned to my old neighborhood, in the heart of an arrondissement that is now part of the so-called “New Paris,”  to see what the fuss was about.

Is unexpected Paris hard to come by?  Even if books and lists claim the opposite, there are hardly any real secrets left in Paris anymore. There are, however, off-the-beaten-path places (and experiences) some Parisians or visitors (who got lucky, or did their homework) discover and enjoy around the French capital. Many of these have not…

“Monoprix: Not your Everyday Everyday.” In France, if you live in a city of 50,000 people or more, you probably shop chez Monoprix. Born in Rouen in the 1930s after the Great Depression, Monoprix may have been modeled after successful American chainstores like Woolworth’s, it remains a French success story. La marque Monoprix (the Monoprix brand) has changed…

June 16, 2018 update: Félicitations to Barbara, our Giveaway winner! I hope you enjoy your two free tickets to enjoy any theatre show of your choice (with English subtitles) in Paris! Thank you all for participating: I noted your excellent suggestions and will try and implement most of them.   Véronique (French Girl in Seattle)   …

Bienvenue chez French Girl in Seattle! I am so glad you could join me for this French housewarming party, ma pendaison de crémaillère. After weeks of hard work, it is time to celebrate: I am happy to invite you to discover French Girl in Seattle‘s new {virtual} home. I hope you enjoy visiting as much as I…

Next best thing to being in Paris? Watching movies set in Paris. Reading books about Paris. Listening to other people’s stories about Paris. Or, if all else fails, listening to favorite French songs about Paris on Youtube. This list is not exhaustive. There are many contenders! The City of Light has inspired artists depuis toujours (forever.)…

La Bastide, Bordeaux’s Right Bank Challenging decisions await travelers exploring a city for the first time: To visit landmarks, or not to visit landmarks, that is the question. Embracing crowds near said-landmarks, or exploring the roads less traveled to make one’s own path, is another question. To really capture a city’s essence, one must do…