Spotlight on Paris: exploring Bastille

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Few cities stir a traveler’s imagination like Paris. The anticipation of traveling here is almost tangible: we see ourselves sitting outside a cosy sidewalk café, sipping from a glass of wine or holding a warm café au lait, and watching the stylish passersby. And while we want to see the sights, most of us also strive for a behind-the-scenes experience – a sense of what it’s like to actually live as Parisians do.

Our guide Benoit joins us today with a suggestion for escaping the heavily touristed parts of the city in exchange for a more local experience, in his home neighbourhood of Bastille.

If you are a first time visitor to Paris, you will for sure want to see the city's many sights that are famous all around the world: the "village-like" area of Montmartre, the Eiffel tower of course, the grave of Jim Morrison, and other well-known points of interest.

As a passionate guide who has lived in Paris for the past 12 years, I will also strongly suggest, for a local and very enjoyable experience, to have a walk in the less touristic area of Bastille. The Bastille fortress was once a great symbol of the French Revolution. It was here that the prison at the origin of Bastille Day (14th July) was destroyed in 1789, and this area bordering the 11th and 12th arrondissements is still a popular area of Paris where you can be sure to have an interesting experience.

Every day except Monday, take the metro to station Ledru-Rollin or Faidherbe Chaligny (line 8), and between 9 am and 1:30pm, head to the Marché d'Aligre, a very lively outdoor food market, and also one of the cheaper markets in the city. The market, created in 1778, is coupled with an indoor market rebuilt in 1843. Although all Paris has become more “bourgeois”, this market in Bastille hasn't lost much of its originality and nice atmosphere, where the merchants will shout louder and louder to sell their fresh tomatoes, melons and other seasonal fruits and vegetables before the market closes.

Of course, you can also eat there for a very reasonable price and, the cherry on the cake, make a stop at Le Baron Rouge, 1, Rue Théophile Roussel, for a nice glass of wine. Here you can pick from a very long list of choices, and enjoy your drink surrounded by wine barrels and locals who have made it a tradition to stop here. You can also enjoy charcuterie and on Sundays a plate of oysters. Just learn to say Bonjour and Merci and they will take care of you! (Editor's note: Le Baron Rouge was recently listed as one of Time Out's "100 Best Bars in Paris.")

Give me a call if you're around for a tour, or just for a glass of wine (I can't say no!)

Thanks for sharing this Parisian gem, Benoit! If any travelers are heading to Paris this fall or are planning a trip in 2014, consider getting in touch with Benoit for more ideas on visiting charming neighbourhoods away from the traditional tourist areas.
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