I love Paris, but the last few times I have visited, I’ve been a little disappointed. My once favourite districts – the Marais and the Latin Quarter – felt overrun with tourists (yes, I know I’m a one too), and the shopping districts, now full of fast-fashion chain stores and some very ordinary eateries, were unbearably crowded.
This visit I decided to try out a new part of Paris, and booked a hotel in the eighth arrondissement, as it was close to Montmartre which I was eager to revisit, and an easy train ride to anywhere else I decided to go.
It turns out my hotel is also very close to the border of the 17th arrondissement, known as Batignolles (pronounced Batinyol). The arrondissements (districts) of Paris are laid out like a snail shell, starting with the first on the right bank of the river Seine and running clockwise to the twentieth. Until now, I’d thought anything above the eighth was too far out and not worth visiting – with the exception of Montmartre. But it seems I was very wrong.
Batignolles is utterly charming! It borders Montmartre but has none of its tacky souvenir shops, chain stores, or street vendors hassling you to buy something you don’t need. Instead you’ll find a perfect blend of traditional French restaurants and trendy new cafes and bars. Specialist boutiques and food stores sit comfortably alongside shops you’d see in any suburban shopping strip – bakers, butchers, chemists, greengrocers, hardware stores, etc.
Locals are out on the street, buying a baguette at the boulangerie, shopping at the greengrocer, chatting with friends, or stopping for a drink at one of the many outdoor cafe tables, while their children play nearby. If there were tourists about, they were not obvious.
Behind the church at the top of the main street, is the Square des Batignolles, a gorgeous park with a duck pond and a merry-go-round – a very popular place to picnic, play games, or just relax with a book under a shady tree.
I loved Batignolles so much, that I didn’t make it to Montmartre. Next time I come to Paris I know exactly where I’ll be staying.