head in hands
If you want to walk from the centre of Paris to the Basilica of Saint Denis, start at Place du Châtelet and follow Rue Saint Denis to the north. About two hours should do it. You'll have plenty of opportunity to indulge in sins of the flesh before you start your pilgrimage, as the first few hundred metres of Rue Saint Denis contain some of the tackiest sex joints in town.
The name of the street changes several times along the way, the first change occurring at the Porte Saint Denis as you cross the Grands Boulevards. Beyond that point the street becomes Rue du Faubourg Saint Denis. (Faubourg means a part of a town outside the centre, but not as far as the banlieue.) This is where the promenade becomes interesting!
|Porte Daint Denis|
The part of Rue du Faubourg Saint Denis from here up to Gare de l'Est is a true melting pot of cultures. There are many small restaurants and cafés of different ethnic origins, along with greengrocers', spice shops and mini-markets. The most obvious ethnic group are the Turks, with their sandwich shops and delicatessens, but there are also quite a few traditional Parisian establishments.
Among them is Le Sully, traditional in a classical way, if you see what I mean, but also in that you meet all sorts there: business people in suits, workers, students, artists, layabouts, men and women, young and old, and from all social and ethnic backgrounds — a reflection of the surrounding quartier. For the biggest surprise, take a look at the prices. In Paris you can expect to pay around €3 for a demi beer (25cl, approximately half a pint), more if you sit on the terrace, and more again after 10pm. At Le Sully you'll get a pinte (50cl) for €3.50 regardless of the time. Or how about a glass of wine for €2.20 or a cocktail for €4.00? No surprise, then, that the place is usually quite busy.
A few doors up, on the opposite side is Julien, a fine example of the Art Nouveau style of Parisian brasserie. Well known for its traditional fare, it is worth a visit just for the décor. The high walls are covered in great mirrors surrounded by painted mouldings and ceramics. Between the mirrors are four nymphs representing the seasons. Peacocks and herons hide among the flowers, and stained-glass ceilings dominate the scene.
Just across the street, in Cours des Petites Écuries is Brasserie Flo, owned by the same group.
If the southern part of Rue du Faubourg Saint Denis is heavily influenced by the cultures from the north of the Indian sub-continent, you might expect the northern extremity of the street to be dominated by businesses from southern India and Sri Lanka.
See Rue du Faubourg Saint Denis (part 2) — coming soon — to find out.
- Metro: Strasbourg - Saint-Denis (lines 4/8/9); Château d'Eau (line 4); Gare de l'Est (lines 4/5/7)
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