France: Paris Canal - St Martin
Until my last trip, I’ve always stayed close to the center of Paris. Place Vendome, Champs Elysee, Arc de Triomphe, either outside of my window or just a few minutes walk away.
This time, however, our accommodations were outside of the center, in the neighborhood of Republique. It’s definitely a ‘hood’ of Paris but has undergone a sort of ‘hipster’ revival akin to the Silverlake and Atwater Village ‘hoods of LA - very ethnic, not gentrified but uniquely re-purposed and definitely diverse.
Our hotel was on the Place Republique where we bore witness to daily protests of varying causes, live music, and probably what is a very typical French day - kids at play with their parents, couples whispering sweet nothings, and lots of baguette companionship.
If we never left the Place Republique, you’d never know that less than a 5 minute walk away, on the Quai de Valmy, you’d find the Paris Canal St Martin. Built in 1802, Canal St. Martin is one of 3 canals built by order of Napoleon to provide fresh drinking water to the growing population of Paris. The canals also served as transportation routes for factories built along them.
Even after the decline of boat traffic, the canals were preserved, primarily due to fact they were located in low-income suburbs of Paris.
Today, you’ll find a variety of eatiers, shops, live music venues and art galleries along the route of Canal St Martin. It makes for a great leisurely walk and a ‘yellow-brick-road’ of sorts to discover other neighborhoods of Paris.
On the day, I discovered the Canal St. Martin, we had arrived by train from London between lunch and dinner service. Fortunately, the distance of Republique was prohibitive enough for me not to make the trek to Opera to the Galeries La Fayette (my favorite shoe department anywhere). Thus, I ended up at Canal St Martin at the suggestion of our concierge.
Though I think I must’ve walked far enough to be into another Paris canal (St. Denis or L’Ourcq), you can see from the photos that beauty really is endless in Paris.