City Spotlight: Rue de la Grange aux Belles
In March, the shores of Canal Saint Martin are a far cry from the romping ground of young Parisians the area is known for in the summer months. Despite the murky, uninviting appearance of the canal there is something very interesting brewing to the east of its bank, where Rue de la Grange aux Belles meets Quai de Jemmappes in the heart of Paris’ 10th arrondissement.
Close to popular canal-side watering holes like Le Comptoir Général, and featuring an eclectic assortment of hip eateries and unusual retail outlets, Rue de la Grange aux Belles is frequented by a mélange of hip Parisians and expat 20-somethings. Yet the local laundromat, thai massage clinic and handful of run of the mill workers’ bistros keep the quiet street’s residential vibe in check.
Perhaps the star attraction of Rue de la Grange aux Belles is Ten Belles Café, a coffee lover’s mecca hidden behind the steamed up windows of the tiny store. Meticulously executed espresso combined with hearty anglo-influenced fare keep the patrons filing in, and it’s no secret that the casual chat on offer from the boys manning the coffee bar is all part of the charm. This friendly atmosphere is uncharacteristic for Paris and might just make your day.
Next door, the words ‘mode et cuisine végétarienne-italienne‘ are scrawled on the shirt worn by the mannequin propped outside Carmen Ragosta, explaining the nature of this curious hybrid of fashion boutique and café. Inside, Carmen can be seen bent over a tiny kitchen at the back of the shop, preparing lunch for the chic clientele seated at one of only two tables in the centre of the boutique becoming as much a part of the shop’s retro décor as the vintage hats and chequered linoleum.
On the other side of Ten Belles, intriguing fleuristerie Bleuet Coquelicot could be mistaken for a loopy botanist’s overgrown greenhouse. Owner ‘Tom des fleurs’ sells unusual plants and advises on ancient botanic remedies in a truly whimsical setting; the wild verdure tumbling out of the store onto the sidewalk adds a magical, earthy charm to the little street.
A stone’s throw away, jewellery and trinket boutique Dante & Maria has all the nostalgia of your grandmother’s house. The store’s exquisitely dainty jewellery is served on platters by adorable taxidermied foxes, or lovingly displayed beneath vintage pâtisserie domes.
Far from the bustle of the Marais, and yet to be occupied as ‘bobo’ territory like parts of Belleville, Rue de la Grange aux Belles is a rough little gem. The unpretentious, village feel of the street is what keeps it interesting, and worth a visit even on a rainy winter’s day.
by Jenny Wylie
Photo by Sophia Mariano