July 31, 2014
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Paris is not all glamour and romance. And if I liked Paris at all, it wasn’t the glamour and the so-called “romance” that I liked, but the simple, unseen aspects of everyday life. A friend who was living in Paris told me about a little area in the city, hidden from the hustle of the urban center and away from the touristic crowds. In her words, it was “A village within a city, an enclosure of its own, sort of like connected courtyards behind a secret door, hiding a world of art and antiques.” But she didn’t tell me how to find it. According to my friend, she stumbled upon the place through a treasure hunt of some sort, carefully following instructions while not really knowing where she was going. And by the time she reached this “village”, she didn’t remember how she got there or how she got out. Intrigued, I decided to look for this mysterious place one afternoon as I had a few hours to kill in Paris before heading back to Bordeaux. I thought a good place to start would be the area around the metro station “Saint-Paul”, as the village itself is named, of course, Le Village Saint-Paul.
Usually, many signs point to prominent tourist landmarks, and you could be sure to reach these landmarks by following signs alone. Not the case with Saint-Paul. I suppose it wasn’t a place foreigners visited often, and while there were one or two signs around the metro station pointing to the direction of the “village”, they were vague and misleading, to say the least. I was prepared to enter a maze of quiet alleys in a quest to find Saint-Paul. And it did take a while. I was frustrated, turning corners obliviously without knowing where I was and where I was going, but at the same time, without knowing that what I was looking for could be closer to me than I had anticipated.