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The City of Might: Five Locals on the Enduring Appeal of Paris

By Aislyn Greene

12.01.16

From the January/February 2017 issue

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Photo by Charissa Fay

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Paris has changed since the tragic attacks in November 2015—here, five Parisians share why it will always shine on.

1. LINDSEY TRAMUTA, author of the forthcoming book The New Paris, walks us through her dynamic neighborhood, which, little more than a year after being shaken by terrorist attacks, retains its joie de vivre.

"I live right on the border of the 10th and the 11th arrondissements. The border doesn’t really matter much, since both arrondissements combine iconic Paris images—tin mansard rooftops and balconied Haussmannian buildings—with a surprising social and commercial mix. When I moved here 10 years ago, the area wasn’t all that interesting for me, a 21-year-old who was just discovering the city. It has changed tremendously since then.

"The main drag, Rue Oberkampf, was always a busy market street, but when I arrived, it was lined with rundown shops and dingy bars where you’d find a couple of old men drinking wine at nine in the morning. But once chef Pierre Sang opened his eponymous restaurant in one of those older spots, it created a new energy on the street. Other small businesses, especially restaurants and bars, started to open, and the neighborhood came alive.

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"What I’ve always loved about this neighborhood is that it gives you a more varied view of the city. On my street there are a lot of bars, but as you head north, you’ll find dynamic Jewish and Arab communities. People like to be out and about here, drinking and eating and enjoying themselves among different kinds of people. I think that social, bon vivant element is the reason the neighborhood was targeted last November.

"The attacks took place a 10-minute walk from my home and changed my lovely, easygoing neighborhood. The reality is that, since the Charlie Hebdo attacks, sometimes there are armed soldiers in the street. People are, understandably, a bit more on edge. But there’s also a resilience, like there was in New York after 9/11, that has really impressed me. The two cafés that were attacked, Le Petit Cambodge and Le Carillon, have reopened, and whenever I walk by, I see people enjoying the same lifestyle they had before—we refuse to let what happened last year ruin our everyday lives. 

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How Do You Unwind? Three Parisians—a café owner, a photographer, and an entrepreneur—share their go-to spots for slowing down. 

2. GUY GRIFFIN, OWNER OF CAFÉ OBERKAMPF

“I sometimes dream of a 5 p.m. lunch/dinner at Clamato, a beautiful seafood restaurant and wine bar in the 11th. I like to sit at the table in the back, where light pours in through the window and you can peek at the city garden outside. A plate of razor clams and a glass of white wine would definitely make my Sunday.” 

3. THIBAULT CHARPENTIER, PHOTOGRAPHER

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“In the 16th arrondissement, there’s the Jardin de Serres d’Auteuil, part of the Botanical Gardens of Paris. I have an endless love for greenhouses, and this one in particular. Even though it’s open to the public, it’s calm and little-known. It has white wrought-iron tables and chairs that make it the perfect place to relax with a book.”

4. ÉLODIE FAGAN OF LA RECHO FOOD TRUCK

“When I need to take an afternoon break from the weekend bustle, I visit the Jeu de Paume gallery, which feels like a retreat from the sound and fury of Paris streets. The gallery is right in the Tuileries gardens, and the exhibitions are always tastefully curated and not too big.” 

5. DAVID FLYNN, part owner of the roastery Belleville Brûlerie and the new café La Fontaine de Belleville, is on a mission to upgrade the city’s iconic café scene.

“It’s no secret: For a long time Paris’s coffee was awful. The city may have an amazing café culture, but that has never had much to do with the quality of the coffee. Years ago, when the first specialty coffee shops started to appear, they didn’t look anything like French cafés, partly because of foreign influence (they looked more Scandi-hipster) and partly because it’s expensive to open a traditional, street-side café.

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“Since Thomas Lehoux and I launched Belleville Brûlerie more than three years ago, it’s been our goal to be very French and in tune with French culture. When the opportunity came up to buy La Fontaine de Belleville, a corner café that Thomas and I used to frequent for beers, we jumped on it. If specialty coffee is to break out of its niche, it has to be served in more traditional cafés. And fortunately, there’s a lot to love about that style of café—it’s not so focused on one individual product that you lose sight of what’s important: the welcome, the community, the food, and non-coffee drinks. And that’s a formula worth preserving.”

 >>Next: See Taipei Through a Photographer's Lens

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