I Love Touring Paris - The Twentieth Arrondissement
I love touring Paris so much that I am doing a series on both the well known and the rarely visited tourist attractions of Paris's twenty arrondissements (districts). This article visits the twentieth arrondissement of northeastern Paris. We suggest French wine and food to increase your touring pleasure.
The 20th arrondissement of northeastern Paris is located on the Right Bank of the Seine River. Its land area is 2.3 square miles or a sliver less than six square kilometers. The population is over one hundred eighty thousand and the district is home to about fifty five thousand jobs. The arrondissement contains two special neighborhoods, Ménilmontant and Belleville discussed below but we’ll start with the Twentieth’s number one tourist attraction, the Père-Lachaise Cemetery, the largest cemetery is Paris and frankly one of the best-known cemeteries in the world. This slice of Paris attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors per year. While there are several metro stations serving Père-Lachaise many tourists prefer the Gambetta station right near the tomb of Oscar Wilde and from there its downhill in more ways than one. This property occupies almost 120 acres (almost 50 hectares) and includes several war memorials.
This unusual tourist attraction is named for Père François de la Chaise, confessor to Louis XIV, who lived on the property some three hundred years ago. Cemeteries were banned in Paris as of 1786 for health reasons. When Père-Lachaise Cemetery was established by Napoleon in 1804 it was far from the city. To drum up business the remains of La Fontaine and Molière were transferred there the same year. Then in 1817 the supposed remains of the famous couple Abélard and Heloïse were reinterred on the property. Within a few years its population went from a few dozen to well over thirty thousand. Today over three hundred thousand have been buried without counting those who were cremated. Among the famous who repose here are the French writer Honoré de Balzac, the French actress Sarah Bernhardt, the Polish composer Frédéric Chopin, the American dancer Isadora Duncan, the American singer and songwriter Jim Morrison whose grave has a full-time security guard, perhaps the French Resistance leader Jean Moulin, the French singer Édith Piaf, and the Irish writer Oscar Wilde.
The Mur des Fédérés (Communards' Wall) is also located in the Père-Lachaise Cemetery. This marks the spot where 147 Communards, the last defenders of the Belleville workers' district, were shot in May 1871 effectively ending the Paris Commune. The cemetery and in particular the wall are a short of shrine for French left-wingers and many of their leaders are buried in the vicinity.
Belleville which means beautiful town is a Parisian working-class neighborhood situated mostly in the 20th and 19th arrondissements with a bit of overflow into the 10th and 11th. It was once an independent village and distinguished itself during the fight for the Second Republic in 1848 and the Paris commune from 1870 to 1871. It’s a colorful area and home to a large Chinese community. Tuesdays and Fridays you’ll find farmers from the region selling their wares in an outdoor market on Belleville Boulevard. Many artists now live and work in this district. Legend has it that the incomparable singer Édith Piaf was born under a lamppost on the Rue de Belleville. This part of Paris was featured in many films including the 1951 Casque d’or (Gold Cap), the 2003 Triplets of Belleville, and the 2007 biography of Piaf, La Vie en Rose (Life Through Rose-Colored Glasses), the name of one of her signature songs.
Of course you don’t want to be in Paris without sampling fine French wine and food. In my article I Love French Wine and Food – A Burgundy Chablis I reviewed such a wine and suggested a sample menu: Start with Escargots de Bourgogne (Snails in Parsley Butter). For your second course savor Fondue Bourguignonne (Beef Fondue). And as dessert indulge yourself with Poires pochées au vin de Bourgogne (Pears poached in Burgundy Wine). Your Parisian sommelier (wine steward) will be happy to suggest appropriate wines to accompany each course.
We have now finished this take on Paris’s twenty arrondissements. Of course there is no such thing as finishing with Paris. We are going to do a different type of series regrouping several districts in short articles that give you a taste of an area such as central Paris or the Latin Quarter. But Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé (the Beaujolais Nouveau wine has arrived) and we are going to taste a couple offerings and write reviews real soon. Then we will continue with our French travel articles but extend our visits outside of Paris. Bon Voyage.
Levi Reiss has authored alone or with a co-author ten computer and Internet books, but to tell the truth, he would really rather just drink fine French, German, or other wine, accompanied by the right foods. He knows what dieting is, and is glad that for the time being he can eat and drink what he wants, in moderation. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario French-language community college. Visit his Italian travel, wine, and food website www.travelitalytravel.com and his global wine website www.theworldwidewine.com.