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Criss-Crossing Paris Quartier by Quartier

There are days and weeks I don’t leave Le Marais. It’s not that I don’t WANT to. It’s just because I don’t NEED to…normally. This little enclave, consisting of two arrondissements (3rd and 4th) have everything any Parisian could need or desire. This is where most of the museums are, where most of the major city events take place and where there are enough restaurants and shops to keep one busy for a lifetime.

But of course, Le Marais is NOT Paris. It’s just one tiny part of it, and there is much to discover outside of its borders — enough for many lifetimes, all of which I hope to live.

This past weekend was one of those rare times when Métro and bus tickets got a real workout, having accumulated a good many at the bottom of my bag by the end of the weekend. Discovering new and different neighborhoods is one of Paris life’s little pleasures, an avocation to add to one’s list of to-do’s. There are so many to explore — not just the 20 districts, but the 80 “quartiers” which make up the 20 districts.

Each arrondissement consists of four ‘administrative districts.’ Each contains a police station. has a great page outlining all of them, noting each district’s population, geographic surface and population density.

My little district is “Les Enfants Rouge,” is the 5th smallest in geographic size and the 19th most densely populated, in spite of the fact that the buildings are generally not as tall as in other districts and therefore wouldn’t house as many people…but the apartments are smaller than in most, making up for the height.

On Saturday I criss-crossed Paris by taking the 96 bus to the end of the line (Gare Montparnasse) to visit with a friend in the 15th arrondissement who wishes to rent her beautiful, spacious two-bedroom apartment. This district is “Necker,” the 16th largest, but 24th most densely populated. Other than the Tour Montparnasse, which is a bit of a ‘black mark’ on the quartier, it is proud of the other illustrious public buildings such as the Lycée Buffon, Necker Children’s Hospital, the Pasteur Institute and the Musée de La Poste.

After lunch, two Métro trains (Line 6 from Pasteur via Place d’Italie to Line 5) landed me at Place de la Bastille for a bit of self indulgence — a manicure. This district is known as “Roquette” in the 11th arrondissement, named after a yellow flower that once grew in the area. Mostly, the buildings were built in the late 19th-century and early 20th-century, except for a bit around the Place that remains from the time of the prison that was stormed during the French Revolution. Today it is a dynamic center of activity. It is the 5th densest, but the 35th largest in surface area.

After returning home, a short walk away, I headed out that evening again taking two Métro trains (Line 8 via Madeleine to Line 12) to land in the 18th arrondissement at station Marx Dormoy, an area of city few know. It was there in this district known as the third largest China Town off rue Torcy that I attended an art opening — sponsored by Galerie Blue Square at the Espace 19 Côté Cour of four Russian artists — works selected for the Venice Biennale in 2015.

The Espace 19 Côté Cour is a beautiful atelier-turned-gallery in a courtyard of this very unsuspecting quartier. A mismash of cultures, but with a prevalence of Chinese, there is an abundance of big Chinese restaurants and markets, anchored by one large covered market at Place Torcy. This the quartier “La Chapelle,” the 28th largest and the 59th most densely populated.

Sunday the criss-crossing took me to another part of the city for lunch with a friend — the 7th district within which is, of course, La Tour Eiffel, and what Rick Steves has made famous: Rue Cler. One Métro (Line 8) gets me there in one straight shot (to station Ecole Militaire).

This is the quartier “Gros-Caillou,” where once stood a tobacco factory, one of the largest in Paris, situated on the Quai d’Orsay, employing more than a thousand workers and one of the largest sources of industrial pollution. It’s the 25th largest quartier and the 58th most densely populated.

I stopped home in between events before cross-crossing again, getting back on the train (taking two trains: Line 8 via Châtelet to Line 4) to take advantage of Jim Haynes’ Sunday Night Dinner in his atelier-style apartment in the 14th arrondissement on rue de la Tombe Issoire. Just off rue d’Alésia, this was one of first areas of Paris to be touched by the “Quartiers Verts” program. It’s on the edge of the quartier  “Parc-de-Montsouris,” named after the large Montsouris Park, primarily a residential district. It is the 27th largest and the 66th most densely populated.

Jim has hosted this dinner every Sunday night for about 35 years with attendance of 50 to 70 people. (I wrote about this as long ago as October 2, 2004. He sits on his stool at the edge of the open kitchen with his check list of attendees collecting his ‘donations’ — which have gone up 50% since having first written about him in 2004, but surprisingly worth it, with a variety of different chefs preparing the meals. Attendees are an internationally mixed group of regulars, ‘irregulars’ and newcomers. I might be considered an ‘irregular’ since I show up once a year or so to say hello to old friend Jim, and see who’s new and who I know.

The smallest quartier in Paris is the “Gaillon” in the 2nd arrondissement and the largest is the “Gare” in the 13th arrondissement with a population of only 69,008 being the 42nd most densely populated. The largest arrondissement in Paris is the 15th, the smallest being the 2nd. (See for more information about the 20 arrondissements.)

Next time you’re in the City of Light, do a little criss-crossing to really get to know the city — enough for many lifetimes, all of which I hope you’ll live.

A la prochaine,

Adrian Leeds

The Adrian Leeds Group

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