I love the hidden corners of Paris that you can stumble upon and suddenly find yourself transported somewhere else, often to a small French town or village. The Sqaure des Peupliers is one of those places, a few narrow cobbled streets full of birdsong and the scent of flowers. Located in the 13th arrondissement, this tiny triangle of provincial France is a lovely detour in the spring and summer. Built in 1926 on the site of old quarries and the river bed of the Bievre, long since disappeared, grand building projects were not possible, and so a charming quarter of modest sized houses was built.
Nowadays, living in one of these houses is pretty much an impossible dream for most of us, but a stroll through the alleyways is available to everyone and is always a pleasure!
Whilst you are there, you can also see the nearby rue Dieulafoy, This street is very different to others in Paris. It’s lined with tall houses, each painted a different pastel colour, and each almost identical, with strange shaped slate roofs. The architect Henry Trésal designed the 44 identical houses in 1921. At the time they were aimed at middle class buyers, and were equipped with a modern bathroom and an obligatory 2.50m space between the house and the pavement, allowing today for some very pretty gardens. Many of the houses have been modified over the years, but you can still see the unity of the architecture in the street.
If you’re visiting the Butte Aux Cailles it’s well worth taking a few extra minutes to explore these two charming streets.
Square des Peupliers, & rue Dieulafoy, 75013 Paris. metro: Tolbiac
link to map
The Butte aux Cailles is one of the most picturesque parts of Paris. Once a village on the outskirts of the city, with the river Bievre (now filled in) running through it and surrounded by windmills, it housed workers employed in the industries that grew up around the river – mainly tanners and laundries. It’s located in the 13th arrondissement in the south of the city, and a walk around the pretty streets can feel like taking a stroll though a small country town.
The area really feels special in the city. It’s located at the top of a small hill, and does not have a supermarket or any chain stores. The streets are narrow and often cobbled, the area was spared the modernisation under Haussmann that changed so much of the rest of the city, and you’ll find individual houses up here with their own gardens, something extremely rare in Paris. In the spring the wisteria and blossoms fill the streets with colour and the air with perfume. Several artists now have their studios here, and the once modest area is now seeing real estate prices rise faster than almost any other part of the city.
A walk around the Butte aux Cailles is a lovely way to spend a sunny afternoon. There are plenty of cafés and small restaurants, lots of street art, and one of the oldest and most beautiful swimming pools in Paris, the Piscine de la Butte aux Cailles– built in 1924 it has both and indoor and outdoor pools.
Take a look at the drinking water fountain on Place Paul Verlaine, the small square in front of the swimming pool. It dispenses mineral water from an artesian well and you can often see locals filling up their bottles from it. The swimming pool also uses this water – the original Bains Douches built in 1908 used hot water also from the springs and the outdoor pools are still filled with this warm water.
Take the metro to Glacière or Corvisart and walk up the hill. The main heart of the area is the rue de la Butte aux Cailles, this street is picturesque during the day and a lively and fun place to have a drink or dinner in the evenings. Whatever the weather or the time of day, the Butte aux Cailles is one of the most charming areas in Paris.
- Metro Glacière or Corvisart. 75013 Paris.
Walk past on a grey day and you could almost not notice it. Perhaps you might look up and see the facade sculpted by Rodin while he was still a student. Take a step back, and suddenly you notice it, a glass creature discreetly peeping up over the rooftops. The old cinema, Le Rodin, has taken on a new form and a new life in the hands of Renzo Piano.
This beautiful building, opened in late 2014, is now home to all of the non-film archives of Pathé, and also has a small cinema where they project silent films which students from the Conservatoire accompany live on the piano. You can visit the lobby, gardens and any temporary exhibitions, or buy a ticket for a film showing, but if you want to see the entire building you need to book a guided tour (Saturdays at 12:00 and in French).
The guided tour allows you to visit the incredible office space housed in the top of the building, and also gives you a much better understanding of the project – the origins and complexities of the enclosed site that led to the organic form of the building, and the visions and work of both Renzo Piano and Jerome Seydoux (the current President of Pathé). Renzo Piano saw a magic lantern, rising above the Parisian rooftops. His architect partners speak of a ‘creature’ – it made me think of the giant worm in Murakami’s Super Frog Saves Tokyo, although a much more benevolent version!
On the first floor there is currently fascinating exhibition of cameras and projectors, along with some of the original posters from the archives.
Even if the full guided tour is not for you, do look up, and then go in and enjoy this incredible building.
Open Tues – Fri 13:00-19:00 and Saturdays 11:30-19:00
To book a place on a guided tour email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Website (in French)
Recently I discovered that not only are there 1200 drinking water fountains across Paris, but that they are not only beautiful, like the Wallace fountains, they now include fountains providing fizzy drinking water.
You may think that this is just Paris, where people are so chic that they even need sparkling water coming out of their fountains, and it’s true that it’s cool and delicious on a hot day, but it’s more than that. The French drink vast amounts of mineral water, producing the equivalent vast amounts of plastic bottle waste. The fountains known as ‘La Petillante’ – or she who sparkles – are actually dispensing tap water that is cooled and carbonated on the spot, in a campaign to try and make tap water more acceptable to locals. And it seems to be making everyone happy, I’ve stopped by 2 recently, one on the Berges de Seine by the riverside, providing a cool drink to happy runners, tourists and locals enjoying the sunshine by the river, and one in the Parc André Citroen, where a woman in front of me was filling up about 10 glass bottles. This one has even gone a step further, and a vending machine sells reusable water bottles (designed by Philippe Starck of course, this is Paris…)
The other nice thing about these fountains, is that currently they are all located in or near beautiful parks or gardens, so you an always find a place to sit and enjoy a drink.
So keep your bottle handy, and check out the map below for up to date details of their locations as more are installed (as well as locations of all the drinking water fountains in Paris including the Wallace fountains). Sitting by the riverside enjoying the views and a cool, fresh drink of sparkling water isn’t a bad way to spend a sunny afternoon in Paris.
map of drinking water fountains in Paris (in French)
It’s been a while since I’ve seen once of the old fashioned photo booths. I really love them, you take your chance and get 4 shots, no retouching or editing. No chance to redo them if the top of your head is chopped off (or worse you haven’t sat down yet as we did last time). I have come across two in Paris recently, both working, and for only 2€ it’s a really nice way to get some wonderful souvenir photos.
One is in the Palais de Tokyo, the other one in the Cité de la Mode.
- Palais de Tokyo, 13 avenue du President Wilson, 75016 Paris. metro: Iena
- Cité de la mode et du design, 34 Quai d’Austerlitz, 75013 Paris metro: Gare d’Austerlitz