Exploring Three Ethnic Neighborhoods

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Exploring Ethnic Paris: Oberkampf, Ménilmontant and Belleville

The center of Paris—the first 8 arrondissements—has so much to offer visitors that few stray beyond the magic circle.

Belleville, one of Paris' liveliest ethnic neighborhoods, a mix of Asians, Africans and prototypical Parisians: Edith Piaf was born here.

But Paris is much more: it has 20 arrondissements, each with its atmospheric corners and peculiar character. (See our Paris Arrondissement Map)

Three of my favorite ethnic neighborhoods—there are dozens in Paris—are in the 11th, 19th and 20th arrondissements in eastern Paris: Oberkampf, Ménilmontant and Belleville.

My office was in Ménilmontant for about 20 years. Nearby, in Belleville, Edith Piaf was born (and 100 yards from her birthplace, one of the best Thai restaurants in town has been in operation for the last 20+ years).

In this article originally published by AOL’s Gadling dot com—where I am a European correspondent—I paint a picture of this unsung but eminently explorable part of the City of Light, which includes Pere-Lachaise cemetery (where Piaf’s tomb is found—as well about 70,000 others).

Here’s the beginning of the story and link to read the whole article on Gadling:

“The good news is Paris’ kaleidoscopic, multiple-choice future is playing today not in a theater near you but in the Oberkampf, Ménilmontant and Belleville neighborhoods. That’s where Algiers meets Caracas and Istanbul via Zanzibar. Despite occasional intrusions by fanatics, the inhabitants here and in Paris’ many other ethnic enclaves seem to get along like traditional French peas in the pod.

Never heard of Oberkampf, Ménilmontant or Belleville? That’s not surprising. Outlying, in the north-by-northeastern sector of town, they’re not chic. They have no claims to fame other than as the home to Père-Lachaise Cemetery and the birthplace of Edith Piaf, the raucous crooner of “La Vie en Rose” and yesteryear’s hits.”


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