After the obligatory visits to The Louvre, Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower, take a step away from the hoards of people. Keep stepping all the way back to the 20th arrondissement (district), where conventional Paris becomes funktified into unknown (to visitors) boutiques, nightlife without the super-gloss, and the coolest hotel in the city. Aka: my favourite place to hang.
Where to Sleep
Take the comfort of your mama’s hug, dump the family drama, insert blasé cool, and you’ve got the carefree ease of Mama Shelter hotel (with €89 summer rates!). Watch out for these deals (which often include breakfast for two and two metro day passes).
Spend time reading the scrolling text on the roof, carpets and walls, or head right up to your sleek room and snap photos of the pop culture mask lampshades. Included are a 24” iMac TV/Internet/Radio/CD and DVD player, free wireless, five star bedding, and free movies on demand. Did we mention the cool lampshades?
Where to Eat
Eat at Mama Shelter’s Mama Pizzeria (small €3 pizzas are served on paper plates, along with bigger options) or there’s also a restaurant/bar and a rooftop terrace. A DJ plays eclectic music every weekend night.
For a simple meal during the day, try Zoé Bouillon, a “soup boutique” that also serves sandwiches, salads and dessert for under €10 an item. For dinner, Valentin (64 rue Rébeval, 01 42 08 12 34) mixes 30’s décor with Argentinean cuisine (most meals under €20), and Le Vieux Belleville adds nostalgic French music – performed live, usually with an accordion – to the simple bistro menu.
What to Do
When in the 20th arrondissement, I always visit the iconic Père Lachaise Cemetery (it’s possible to be an iconic gravesite, no?). Here you can join the throngs of devoted rockers at Jim Morrison’s grave, stand quietly admiring Frederic Chopin, and hum a timeless song at Edith Piaf’s resting place. It’s also a serene place to wander on a nice day. Then take a stroll to the nearby Vintage 77 boutique (77 rue de Ménilmontant, 01 47 97 77 17) for vintage Fendi, Chanel and Pucci at neighbourhood prices.
Speaking of the “Little Sparrow,” the “secret” Edith Piaf Museum (01 43 55 52 72, free/by donation) in this area has much Edith Piaf memorabilia. It is privately run and open from 1-6pm Monday through Wednesday. You get the address and buzzer code once you have made an appointment.
What’s your favourite neighbourhood in Paris?