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Trip Report Going to Montmartre from Gare du Nord totally off the beaten track

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I made a first version of this report more than eight years ago on another website to describe the “ethnic zone” north of Gare du Nord, a place to which many visitors never stray, because it is wedged between the tracks of Gare du Nord and Gare de l’Est and possesses no noteworthy monuments or museums. In fact, it has precious little of anything… except people. But I think that they are very interesting people, and I have been living right in the middle of this area for more than 20 years now, so I have come to know it fairly well.

My recommendation is for a walking tour with Gare du Nord as the starting point, and it can become the first section of a day that will take you to Montmartre. Good walking legs are highly recommended, but if you need to make some rest stops for refreshments, you will see that we are far from the land of the not-so-mythical $8 Coke. Many people who arrive at Gare du Nord on the RER from the airport or by train never even get to see what a fine building Gare du Nord is because they dive immediately into the metro or jump into a taxi.

Gare du Nord in full glory: http://i450.photobucket.com/albums/qq228/kerouac2/Paris%20ethnique/Eth%20008.jpg

Little India and Little Jaffna

While a major zone of Indian restaurants already starts several blocks south of Gare du Nord (notably the Passage Brady and rue Jarry area, not far from Gare de l’Est), the main South Asian zone of Paris starts just north of Gare du Nord along the Faubourg Saint Denis. The various cultures appear to live in complete harmony, which gives rise to a sort of gastronomic fusion, which sometimes leads to a certain confusion. For example, I wrote about a certain Indo-Mexican Fast Food at 186 fbg. St. Denis in my earlier report. It no longer exists, but how about D.F.C. (Delhi Fried Chicken?) at 168 fbg. St. Denis? It has a “veg menu” for non chicken eaters for 4.90€ consisting of merely an ice cream sundae with coffee or soda, or for people who would actually like some food, the sundae can be replaced by 3 samosas.

Perhaps we can forget about that one because right next door at 170 fbg. St. Denis are two fine looking bright and shiny places. Best of India has a lunch menu for 10€ or the fancy “menu du chef” for 18€. In the same building is the 100% vegetarian Saravanaa Bhavan, which claims to be part of a chain that boasts establishments all over the world but mostly in the Middle East and South Asia. There is also 100% veg Sangeetha at 176 or the Madras Café at 178. The “formule” at this last one is 8€ but there is a luxury menu for 16€.

We are still across from the Gare du Nord building here, so it should be pointed out that there are also numerous telephone boutiques for people who need to connect quickly. At 176 there is a Lycamobile place which also has internet booths. The going price for internet in the area is generally 1€ per hour. Lyca, LeBara, Symacom signs are everywhere. Ortel used to be a major operator as well, but it has merged with something or other. Naturally, all of the places also handle the big French operators Orange, SFR, Bouygues and Free.

While the aroma of curry and other spices hangs over the entire neighborhood, it is the other shops that will attract the most attention on the Faubourg. I have never seen a Western woman not start fantasizing about a costume party while looking at all of the mannequins in the Indian shop windows. Asian Silks and the Saree Palace can be found at 182 fbg. St. Denis in a beautiful Haussmannian building.

Asian Silks and Saree Palace : http://i450.photobucket.com/albums/qq228/kerouac2/Paris%20ethnique/Eth%20g%201.jpg

For people who don’t want to stray far from the station, like maybe they are taking a train in half an hour, but they want to buy some exotic spices, fruit or chillies, there is the appropriately named Indian Supermarket at 184 fbg. St. Denis. Do not be tricked by the sarees and jewelry in the front window – there is indeed a food store in the back. It is sort of hidden by a bus shelter directly in front of the door, but the sign is big enough to see.

186 fbg. St. Denis marks the beginning of the numerous fast food places, with Aachchi and Gowri Villas selling various samosa, pakora, biryani, etc.

Rue Demarquay branches off on the right here and has the usual selection of Indian photo studios, tailors and beauty institutes, but it also has a Pizza Hut takeaway for people with different priorities.

Going back to the world of clothing, Januna Fashion at 189 fbg. St. Denis proposes saris starting at 25€ each, but no matter what price, the saleswomen are always there to show exactly how you ladies are supposed to drape the things on. Islamic fashions are sold as well, and in the very next shop you will see long Punjabi tunics with the accompanying baggy trousers. At 191 are Jaipur Silk Palace, Asian Fashion and New India, which claims to have 5 metre long saris for 6€. In spite of the name, at 193 New Pirasanthy Jewellery is also filled with saris with the added attraction of a man sitting at his sewing machine in the front window making more of them. At 195 is Madras Silk House and at 197 I found the most expensive saris on display at Indian Silk Palace : 59.99 to 99.99€. To end up this fashion section, I will also mention Singapore Silk Point at 210 fbg. St. Denis. Besides clothing, they also sell art objects (statuettes, bric-à-brac…). Naturally, I have not at all exhausted the list of possible places.

Asian Sari Center:
http://i450.photobucket.com/albums/qq228/kerouac2/Paris%20ethnique/Eth%20g%205.jpg

Culture is a very important element of the lifestyle of this community, and to say the least, it is very accessible. Have you always been fascinated by those Indian movies with all of the incredible singing and dancing? At the Vanavil Music at 191 fbg. St. Denis, there is a bin out front with DVDs and CDs for 1€ each. You will find a slightly more expensive offer at Indian Music Center at 199 fbg. St. Denis with the items at 2€ each or 3 for 5€.

Next: more food.

The very Haussmannian Faubourg Saint Denis: http://i450.photobucket.com/albums/qq228/kerouac2/Paris%20ethnique/Eth%20g%204.jpg

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