Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Promenade in Belleville

Continuing my attempts to reduce stress and get exercise, I went to the Place Clichy a few days ago, and from there I walked all the way to Nation, via Belleville. I hadn't been to this latter neighborhood in years. It was quite lively … but then again, on most days, just about every part of Paris is lively, since it's a town where people walk everywhere.

At the Bassin de la Villette (again), I stopped at McDonald's to get some hamburgers—the plain hamburgers are very cheap and nutritionally balanced, despite what some people believe (mainly people who never actually check the nutritional information). There was a homeless guy outside the entrance asking for money, so I gave him several euro. He seemed very happy about that—I suppose most people, when they give anything at all, probably give “red coins” or “yellow coins” (the lowest denomination of euro coins are red, and the next lowest are yellow, with the 50-cent piece being the most valuable). It was enough money to buy a couple of hamburgers, just as I was doing. There, but for the grace of God … well, I hope God's grace will stretch far enough to keep a roof over my head.

From there I followed Métro Line 2 through Belleville. It was a long and (I hope) healthy walk. Lots of places I hadn't seen in ages, and tons of people. There are many immigrants in this part of town, mostly Arab, some non-Arab Africans, and a surprising number of immigrants from the Far East, although I'm not sure which countries are the most represented. I thought Chinatown, near the Place d'Italie, was the meeting point for Oriental immigrants, but I guess there's more than one Chinatown now. I didn't see any McDonald's signs in Chinese, though, whereas I know there's at least one Chinese McDonald's in the “other” Chinatown.

This part of Paris is very much in contrast to the Sixteenth, where hoi polloi (or I guess I should say the haute bourgeoisie) of Paris walk around with rigid sigmoidoscopes firmly lodged within their colons. (Actually, they drive around in black SUVs, rather than walk, even though distances are measured in hundreds of metres.) People are much more casual and friendly around Belleville. In some areas, there are lots of Asian prostitutes, too. On this particular day, there were so many people walking that there were lines for the Sanisettes. The Sixteenth has almost no Sanisettes, of course, since that would nuire à la bienséance—I love that expression!

This was a fairly long walk—several miles, which is more than I've been able to do lately—and by the time I got to Nation, it was getting dark. I stopped at a pharmacy to get some lip balm and vitamins, and I noted that the establishment was not in conformance with laws concerning emergency exits. But I guess nobody cares about that. After I bought my drugs, I decided to take the Métro home. This was reckless on my part, because this single Métro ride infected me with a cold. There was some woman sniffling right across from me (there's always someone sniffling right across from me on the Métro), and she probably infected me, as I had not been near anyone else with clear symptoms of a URI. I guess I could have walked, but the walk would have been another 120-150 minutes, and I didn't really have time for that (plus it was getting chilly).

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