In case you do an web seek for “the best,” “essentially the most hipster,” or “the poshest” neighborhoods of Paris, Alésia will certainly not seem on the checklist. “Is it too far out?” one vacationer inquires earlier than making a reservation there. However Alésia holds delights for unsuspecting guests. Article by Cathy Yandell for Secrets and techniques of Paris.
The Historical past
The identify “Alésia,” a road, neighborhood, intersection, and metro cease within the 14th arrondissement, commemorates the location of a shattering Gallic defeat by the Romans in Burgundy. All the opposite battles highlighted in Parisian metros and streets appear to be victories (suppose Austerlitz, Iéna, Fleurus, Wagram, Ulm …). Why select a reputation commemorating defeat? I can’t reply that query, however one whimsical concept involves thoughts: to maintain the vacationers away from this irresistible neighborhood. In all of the streets radiating out from the multi-point intersection, discoveries abound.
You would possibly hear it earlier than you see it — the bells of Saint-Pierre-de-Montrouge (82 Avenue du Général Leclerc) mark each hour and resound lengthily ten minutes earlier than every mass (three a day!). Constructed within the mid-nineteenth century, it appears at first look like a nondescript Neo-Romanesque church with semi-domed chapels. However for those who step inside, surprises await. Above the altar (decked by 19th-century chandeliers) stands a marble ciborium (pictured), a sort of cover that stood atop Byzantine tombs. The gold-surrounded Christ determine on the ceiling of the Virgin Chapel stuns by its brilliance. Saint-Pierre is presumably essentially the most eclectic church in all of Paris, with parts from varied instances and cultures, from paleo-Christian instances to the 21st century. Welcome to a combination of France, Italy, Greece, and Turkey! It’s a visible deal with.
The Cafés of the Place d’Alésia
The cafés on the Place d’Alésia appear to name out to passers-by, relying on the time of day, the solar, and the temperature, since Zeyer faces southeast and Le Bouquet d’Alésia faces northwest. They each have these oh-so-Parisian wicker-looking chairs, and each welcome vigorous crowds relying on the time of day. Le Bouquet’s (75 Avenue du Général Leclerc) declare to fame appears to be its ample imitation wisteria draped above the terrace. Le Zeyer (62 Rue d’Alésia) has a contented hour from 4 to 8pm every single day, with the ever-popular Apérol Spritzes and Mojitos at €5.50 a glass. Each cafés are superb outposts for people-watching at any time of the day or night.
For Cheese Lovers
The Fromagerie P. Boursault (71 Avenue du Général Leclerc) is one other merveille. Whereas I’ve been wowed by different cheese retailers in Paris (notably within the rue Montorgueil and round Montparnasse), I’ve by no means discovered a extra spectacular one than this. Each piece of cheese is a curated jewel, every aged to perfection. The Saint Marcellin and the Beaufort are to die for, and the vendeurs Fasile and Emilie (pictured) will kindly clarify the distinction between St Marcellin and St Lucien (and every kind of different cheese data) for those who’re so inclined. The supervisor, Yann, tells me that this little store (below completely different names) has been promoting cheese for over 100 years. In 1952 it belonged to Pierre Boursault, one of many creators (alongside along with his cousin Henri) of the famend “triple cream” Boursault cheese. It was additionally the place the world-famous Maître Fromager Roland Barthélemy first apprenticed as a younger man earlier than opening his first cheese store.
The Finds: Déstockages
Alésia was as soon as recognized for its déstockages (clearance shops), and vestiges of these days are nonetheless current in a number of streets radiating out from the Place: attire could be had for €10, skirts for €5, even shorts for €3. There appear to be kinds for everybody! Additionally price testing are the half-price “grandes marques” (main manufacturers) within the Rue d’Alésia and on the Avenue du Général Leclerc.
- Inventory Rodier, 82 rue d’Alésia
- Évolutif, 109 rue d’Alésia (for males)
- Inventory Ober Denims, 111 bis, rue d’Alésia
- Eco’ Outlet, 137 rue d’Alésia
- Inventory Market 120 bis, avenue du Général Leclerc
Close by Nature: Parc Montsouris
The inimitable Parc Montsouris is lower than a 15-minute stroll from Alésia (48 Avenue Reille or Metro Cité Universitaire). Those that have seen Agnès Varda’s New Wave basic, Cléo from 5 to 7, will instantly acknowledge the romantic tenor of the hilly paths and the waterfall. The decrease a part of the park contains a lake with an island (synthetic however pretty), graced with genuine black swans. The steps fabricated from wooden — or reasonably, concrete usual to appear to be wooden — stay a nostalgic reminder of late 19th and early 20th centuries’ nature-fashioning, as within the Buttes-Chaumont and the Vincennes Zoo.
Once I visited the Parc most not too long ago within the late afternoon, it was a wonderful sight. Whereas the laws in small print on the entry to the park explicitly forbid alcohol, a younger couple sitting on the grass was clearly having fun with a picnic with a bottle of rosé and two glasses perched in the course of their blanket. Little teams of pals, households, and lovers of varied backgrounds dotted the grassy hillsides. In case you visited Paris a number of a long time in the past, you might keep in mind the indicators in all of the parks of Paris, “PELOUSE INTERDITE” (actually “grass forbidden,” however a extra exact translation may be: “Don’t even consider placing a toe on the grass, or a policeman will blow his whistle and sternly shoo you away”). Given this historical past, the sight of younger and previous lounging, laughing, studying, picnicking, sleeping, and enjoying within the grass is a joyous revenge.
With all these treasures and pleasures to be uncovered, “Alésia vaut le détour”: this little-known neighborhood is definitely price an exploration.
In regards to the Writer & Bonus Video
Cathy Yandell is the writer of The French Artwork of Dwelling Effectively: Discovering Joie de Vivre within the On a regular basis World (2023). Secrets and techniques of Paris Neighborhood Members can watch Heather’s interview with Cathy about her guide and her experiences residing in France all through a number of a long time of her life.