Parisian Urban Oasis off the Beaten Path

April 19, 2010 by

Photo by Isabel Howard: Sign on door reads “Je suis dans le jardin” (“I’m in the garden”)

With its hidden gardens and artwork you won’t find in any museum, Paris’s Butte-aux-Cailles neighborhood isn’t on the usual tourist’s radar, and it’s even off the beaten path for most Parisians. The Butte, or mound in French, is a hilly old-fashioned village-like spot stuck in the otherwise contemporary 13th arrondissement.

Walking its narrow cobblestone streets, you can make your way to Rue Daviel to explore the Villa Daviel and nearby streets for examples of art-nouveau architecture. Villa Daviel is a short street, like a mews, lined with brick houses whose front gardens lead you to art nouveau glass awnings over the entryways. Across the street from Villa Daviel, are Little Alsace and Little Russia, worker’s villas built to resemble traditional buildings in Northern France and Russia, constructed in 1910 for low income residents. They’re built around a central courtyard of gardens and benches. Some of their intimate interior courtyards are open to the public during the day.

When you’re thirsty, head to the Place Paul Verlaine to fill your water bottle at a 19th-century well sourcing the natural spring water that once filled the art-nouveau style swimming pool just behind the well.

Got a sweet tooth? Jean-Jacques Schakmundès has been beekeeping for years with apiaries of up of thirty hives spread throughout the Paris region. Les Abeilles, his honey boutique at 21 rue de la Butte aux Cailles, sells some 50 varieties of honey and numerous other honey-laced products.

Some Butte graffiti. Photo by Robin Plaskoff Horton

On the grittier side, the Butte is a showcase for some of the most artistic graffiti, I have ever seen. One of the “street artists”, known as Miss Tic, has completed artwork for luxury brands Louis Vuitton and Longchamp, and in 2007 created a movie poster for the Claude Chabrol’s film, La Fille Coupée en Deux.

Photo by Robin Plaskoff Horton

Photo by Robin Plaskoff Horton

Photo top of page by Middlebury College student Isabel Howard, who is spending a semester in Paris.

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