Whilst strolling around Paris, you can suddenly stumble across areas that look and feel more like a village in the middle of the countryside than a part of the city. I came across one of these today in the 19th arrondissement, a collection of narrow, sloping, cobbled streets or ‘villas’ known as La Mouzaia. In a city where most people live in apartments, here you can still find rows of houses, with tables and chairs hiding in gardens overflowing with flowers.
These houses were originally built for workers at the end of the 19th century, the nearby Parc du Buttes Chaumont was at that time a gypsum quarry, and the surrounding area was full of modest houses like these. Most were demolished in the 20th century to make way for apartment blocks, but due to the labyrinth of quarries underneath it was impossible to build bigger structures here, so this small ‘quartier’ was saved.
Surrounded by Belleville and the Buttes Chaumont, once working class and now increasingly fashionable parts of the city, a walk through these streets is a world away from the city around it. The traffic noise disappears, time seems to stand still, and the perfume of flowers hangs in the air. Take the metro to Botzaris, walk along the rue de la Mouzaia and lose yourself among the dozen or so ‘villas’. You can finish your afternoon in the Parisian countryside with a stroll through the nearby Parc des Buttes Chaumont, and a drink (and why not a dance?) at Rosa Bonheur.
- rue de la Mouzaia, 75019 Paris metro: Botzaris