Paris In A New Light

Paris In A New Light

During a recent visit to Paris, while our own apartment was rented to a nice Japanese banker, we decided to see the City of Light from another angle. Rather than in the 7th arrondissement, where we normally call home when in this part of the world, we opted to stay across town, in the 10th.

“Embrace the bohemian experience,” Lief urged as we made our way down Boulevard Sebastopol our first afternoon residing in our furnishings-by-IKEA digs.

Indeed, we did, in our rented apartment situated between the 9th and 10th arrondissements (or, as Kaitlin explained to a French friend on the phone, “My parents are in an apartment near St. Denis of all places!”).

Prostitution is legal in France, and rue St. Denis is one of the places where the industry thrives. I’ve never walked the business blocks of the street myself, but I’m told they’re lined at all hours with ladies of every description and to accommodate every budget.

The big business on the street where we stayed was food. Within a two- or three-minute walk in any direction were vegetable stands and butchers, spice stalls and bakeries, glass-encased rotisseries on the street offering fresh-roasted chickens and restaurants serving up specialties from Vietnam or Thailand, Morocco or Pakistan, China or India. The air was alive early ’til late with the smells of good and exotic things to eat.

Food…and hair. There were 27 hair salons, spas, and shops in the blocks surrounding us. We counted.

Our adopted neighborhood was short on cute and long on urban. Particular stretches are known as “Little Bombay” or “Little Jaffna” (for its Sri Lankan community).

These rues and boulevards are certainly ethnic and sometimes gritty, but they’re not unsafe or even unclean. The area is charming in its way.

In fact, it’s being called “up-and-coming”…like the Marais a decade ago. Today, the Marais, the city’s former marshland, former Jewish district, is one of its trendiest, with the art galleries, studios, young, eclectic population, and, as well, prices to prove it. If you can no longer afford the Marais…look over in the workingman’s Paris instead.

Over in the 10th, beneath the grit, especially around the Canal Saint-Martin, you catch glimpses of Belle Epoque. During our walks around the neighborhood, we noticed, mixed in among the vegetable stands and the hairdressers, a Baccarat crystal shop and a high-end furrier. The nearby Gare de l’Est train station has undergone a major refurbishment, and the area around Boulevard Magenta, which runs past the station and south to République, is said to be the place to shop for an investment these days.

To buy today in Paris’ 7th arrondissement, the historic and tourist center of the city and its most expensive district, you could spend 10,000 euro per square meter or more (meaning a 100-square-meter apartment could set you back 1 million euro). On the other hand, over here in the 10th, the average price per square meter is about 6,000 euro, meaning a 100-square-meter apartment might go for 600,000 euro.

Fifty square meters would cost half as much in each case, of course. Apartments in Paris (as in Europe in general), certainly apartments in the older historic districts, are typically small. Most single people and many couples live in one-bedroom apartments of about 50 to 75 square meters.

You could rent a one-bedroom apartment in the 7th for as little as 1,500 euro per month, while a one-bedroom in the 10th could be rented monthly for as little as half that right now.

Kathleen Peddicord