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English copywriter in Paris: arrondissements apart

A year ago I moved from my beloved 11ème, which I’d adopted when arriving in Paris some four years earlier, and into the deep depths of the 20ème.

On a map this may represent a tiny hop of no more than 2km (a 25 minute walk), but physiologically and socially this was a big leap.

Map of 20ème

Once working-class, the 11ème has long been the height of bobo cool. Centrally located and filled with elegant Haussmann buildings, it looks and feels wealthy. Predominately white middle class, this is a trendy place to live, with trendy bars, shops and people. I loved (and still love) the buzz and the fact that nearly everything is in walking distance.

The 20ème is Paris’ largest arrondissement spreading from the heights of Belleville (the views are amazing and less tourist-filled than those of Montmartre) to périferique-skirting Porte de Lilas and down to Nation.

For some this working class arrondissement is a no-go area, simply too cosmopolitan, too shabby or too far east. And I can’t help saying, tant mieux. This is a pretty special place full of charm, personality and far from the tourist crowds. I certainly have no regrets and I’m a full convert. Here’s why…

1.)    It’s friendly. People actually talk to each other. I happen to live above a lively little bar and on arriving I was quickly acquainted with bar owner – now I get a cheery ‘Salut voisine’ every time I pass.

2.)   It’s unpretentious. Ok, so in parts it’s a little run-down and gleaming white 19th century apartment blocks are few and far between, but what you get in exchange is quiet understated moments of beauty including winding cobbled street, freshly painted graffiti and a homely village-feel.

Image of grafitti in Belleville

Things are changing though. The 20ème is already on the up and getting trendier by the day. New arrivals include organic restaurants and fair trade clothes shops.

Next step for me? With a boyfriend who’s bought a larger flat down in Ivry-sur-Seine, it looks like I might moving far out and far south into the unknown limits beyond the whizzing ring road.

I’ll keep you posted on my extra-muros adventure!

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