01:20:03 amCategories: Places

Social geography – Place de la République

Under me, Europe spreads, slightly convexly, out. The cities look like illuminated versions of ancient town maps. It’s such a nice weather to fly in. I don’t feel like doing what I usually do on this 2 hours and 20 minutes flight between Paris and Oslo, (which is to go through the generous little pile of newspapers Air France is providing – Le Monde (centre-left, a bit intellectual), Le Figaro (right), Libération (left, 68-ish) and once in a while L’Humanité (communiste) or the economist paper L’Echo. There are always a number of issues very relevant to my thesis. Instead, I’ll flash around with my chic (loaned) white MacBook and get some writing done.

This time in Paris, I tried living at Place de la République. It wasn’t extremely successful as I at least once a day found myself following the same trajectories eastwards or north. Purely geographically, Place de la République is situated in East Paris, but socio-geographically it constitutes an interesting border phenomenon. At the corner of the huge Hausmannian square I was unfortunate to live – westwards in the direction of Les Grandes Boulevardes with Gallerie Lafayette and the likes – there are loads of tourists and shoppers and quite fancy looking people. Just a little north of this, up Boulevard de Magenta in the direction of Gare de Nord, one passes one ethnic community after the other, particularly various South Asians and West Africans. I cycled up Major Delanoë’s nice new bicycle lane along the boulevard several times – to visit a friend in the 18th district just behind the shimmering white Sacre Coeure, and to attend a couple of events (slam poetry, of course and a discussion of art and migration with Edouard Glissant…) at the festival in relation to the international day of migrants in the strongly African Goutte d’Or neighbourhood. The direction I went even more often, however, was straight east, across the Canal where Amelie went to throw her little stones (in order to relax :-) ) and into Belleville. In January, I’ll be moving 10-15 minutes by foot from Place de la République, just in this direction! And I’m looking so much forward to it!

Of all the 6-7 places I’ve been living in Paris, there is none I’ve looked so much forward to move to as this flat in Rue du Faubourg du Temple (faubourg means in fact inner suburb, and when a street is called faubourg something it means that it’s sort of the suburb of the street with the same name – thus there exists a Rue du Temple). Rue du Faubourg du Temple goes from Place de la République, a space even more significantly on the border than I’ve described until now, and Place de Belleville. Place de Belleville is a symbol of immigrant Paris, of course, with Jews and Muslims and East Asians (and the anarchic regionally migrated artisans during the Paris Commune…).

(For some reason, it’s such a convivial atmosphere on this Air France flight. The purser and captain are once in a while proclaiming that they’re so sorry for the delay, and the crew comes around checking if we’ve got enough water of French wine, and now the shaven headed North African French steward is doing magic tricks for the little girl sitting on my row – which she afterwards retells to her father, who has been sleeping. I prefer Air France so much to the other companies flying to Paris. – He’s really an entertainer; now he makes a little Christmas bonhomme stand up in his hand, to the enjoyment of more passengers than the little girl –. Not just because of all their newspapers, French wine and the fact that they’re the only company flying to terminal 2 (making the arrival at Charles de Gaulle very much easier). I think perhaps I like flying Air France because the continental experience lasts longer. When you enter an SAS plane you’re already home, sort of.)

Well, east-west Rue du Faubourg du Temple runs between mainstream republican Paris (Place de la République) and the epitome of Belleville. South-north it separates sort of a classical Parisian neighbourhoodesque (according to my soon-to-be flatmate) area, where, as I mentioned, Amelie Poulain trew the small stones in the canal to calm down, and a more “ethnic Paris” (again according to this flatmate).

- Wops, there Oslo is coming up, small and brightly shining… I see the stadium Valle Hovin very brightly lit, so my home shouldn’t be so far from that. I hear the good-humoured stewards practice some Norwegian (“Garrrderrrmoen”… “tusen takk…”), and talk about laisser les gens detendre…. – When they pronounce the “thank you very much” in Norwegian, some people start clapping so obviously they don’t mind the little delay and is relaxing all right…). Now, I should wrap up this post, before we land. I hear the girl retells what the great magician did to some of the friends of the family.


Comment from: Kari [Visitor]

Hei Cicilie,
var inne på Culcoms sider for å se om du fortsatt var i Paris, og jammen ser det ut som du er der fremdeles. Ble jo loset videre til bloggen din. Har ikke fått tittet på den skikkelig, men ser at du driver med poesi og slik. Vel, kos deg i den flotte byen jeg ofte tenker på, ved siden av Marseille er den jo jammen noe til et reisemål og et herlig sted å kunne tilbringe deler av livet!

29/01/07 @ 18:10
Comment from: Richard [Visitor]

Interesting commentary on the social and ethnic topography of Paris, in this and other posts on your blog. It would be really helpful to someone visiting and wanting to explore beyond the monuments. Facinating!

06/02/07 @ 22:04
Comment from: [Member]

Thanks Richard, I see you’re doing a great job covering Paris yourself - from very far away, as I understand. And nice to see my photo on your site :-)

07/02/07 @ 01:00

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