The City of Paris has been changing quite dramatically for the past few years. Now-a-days, the Parisians are demanding for more space for themselves in the city, especially during the week-end when they want to take advantage of their beautiful neighborhood, away from the crowds of tourists visiting Notre-Dame and the other main monuments of the City. The politicians have no choice but to address these new expectations. There have been a series of interesting experimentations happening in the city for the last couple of years. City Hall started to close traffic on the “voies sur berges” ( the gorgeous express way which crosses Paris along the river “la Seine” passing by famous monuments ) to give it to the pedestrians, bikers and roller-bladers from 9 am to 4 PM every Sundays (this does not happen during the winter… yet!). This experimentation, inspired by what the City of New York does with Central Park, had been a real success among the Parisians.
In the same attempt to give Paris back to the Parisians, the City is currently building kilometers of bicycle-routes across town. This is the second time City Hall is doing it, but this time more successfully. The bicycle routes used to be a small lines painted on the road between the bus line and the cars… just what you need to get killed. This time the bikers are really protected from the cars. One of these routes has just been finished a couple of weeks ago from Place de la Bastille to Stalingrad in the north-east of the city where the Parc de la Villette starts. With the completion of this route, City Hall had decided to renew on the borders of the “canal Saint-Martin” what they do with the voies-sur-berges. These parts of the 10th and 19th arrondissement ( it used to be quite dead there on Sunday ) are now coming to life, even on a grey and cold Sunday.
If you walk along the canal to la Villette you will pass by to the new movie plaza the 14 Juillet-sur-seine. Independently owned the movie theater shows foreign (non American) movies and French drama. The Theater has a real success, especially with its coffee house where you can wait for the movie to start with a hot coffee in one hand and a chocolate cake in the other!!!
On the way to the 14 Juillet-sur-seine stop at the “Hotel du Nord”. This Hotel has been used on the set of a French movie classic from 1938 “L’Hotel du Nord” directed by the great Marcel Carne.
One of the scenes in the movie shows Louis Jouvet arguing with actress Arlety in front of the Hotel. This particular scene is one of the most well-known scene of the French Cinema and every French people knows by heart the dialogues taking place in front of the Hotel. The Canal, its bridges and the Hotel du Nord were in fact recreated in the studios of Boulogne in 1938. The real place almost disappeared a few years ago to become a parking lot, but a spontaneous movement was created to save the building with its famous letters on the front and made it a national monument. Now, the place has found a new owner who modified it to a coffee house and a restaurant. You can listen to Jazz sessions every Sunday after noon.
A few streets away the Gallery Zen Copyright, rue de la Grange-aux-Belles, is open to the public every week-end. The building once used as headquarters by the French Society of Chemistry, now hosts a group of 30 artists occupying ( totally illegally ) the huge space that became vacant. The artists work there during the week and show their work to the public during the week-end. Frequently they organize happenings with bands. A fun way to be outlaws…