Published: April 15th 2012November 14th 2011
So my second place of abode in Paris, was in a place called Montreuil which is actually not considered part of Paris as it is not 'intra muros' and is classified as a banlieue or suburb in English. What this meant in real terms, was that I lived at the last stop on Paris' metro line 9, which runs from Montreuil all the way through Paris to Point Sevres.
It was a good place to live, a nice apartment where I was able to sleep properly and just a hop and a skip away from Bois de Vincennes, a great park where I went for a good few runs . The suburb has an interesting reputation and history and I got some interesting reactions on telling people where I lived.
Today, Montreuil is a multicultural suburb with a lot of muslims from North Africa predominantely and Africans from places like Mali living there. It is also becoming a place for bobos (bourgeois bohemians). According to one of my students this term refers to young people with a bit of coin who are left leaning and more tolerant than their conservative counterparts. Therefore, as part of being a bobo they choose to live in more diverse neigbhourhoods than their conservative counterparts do. The American who coined the term refers to bobos as the 1990s descendants of yuppies. He describes them as the product of the liberal idealism of the 1960s and the self interest of the 1980s. There is a growing amount of them in Montreuil in any case and all up it makes for an interesting mix, demographic of people, ideas and cultures.
I enjoyed living there and found that it was completely safe and relatively friendly. The only hairy incident I was privy to while living there, was not on the streets of Montreuil, but on the metro one Friday night, where a group of 4 youths (early twenties) got on to a couple of the carriages and started picking fights with passengers. The train stopped and security came - either a passenger on the other carriage pushed the alarm button or they have security cameras, but in any case it was pretty scary and I was lucky that I didn't have to get fully involved in a fight, as one of the drugged up hate filled guys who got on to my carriage and started punching and kicking a passenger, stopped doing it when the passenger didn't fight back and pretty much bowed down to him. When the two of them got onto my carriage, I was reading a book and one of the gang members sat next to me. I could sense that he was looking for my attention, but I ignored him and continued reading my book, keeping an eye on the guy out of the corner of my eye. 30 seconds later I was summoned out of my world by a young lady half scared to death waving for help at the other end of the carriage and luckily I didnt have to make any decision about physically joining in the mêlée, as on arriving the guy stopped attacking the passenger - who was young guy around 19. There were only 5 of us on the carriage - two of them were from the gang, one was the victim, the other the girl and me. A couple of days before someone was killed trying to help a victim of an attack on the metro and that experience was a wake up call for me on the potential danger of the metro. I really don't know what I would have done had the guy continued to pound the victim. I like to think I would have done the right thing, but as I said, luckily I didn't have to make the decision.
In Montreuil I started getting into the French insitution of the boulangerie (bakery). By the time I left I had gotten to know the bakery workers quite well and they even ended up understanding my badly accented French enough to have the occasional conversation. So after 4 months I was able to have at least some of my grunts and belches deciphered - progress from the first month where I kept reverting to Spanish everytime I tried to speak French.
I also really started getting into two other French institutions while in Montreuil, those being wine and cheese. I think my first four months sampling countless products of both of these institutions, were spent learning how much I don't know about either and realising that I would never know much as there is so much to learn about both. All the same learning about both wine and cheese is one of the most enjoyable things about being in France and while in Montreuil I was lucky enough to have a knowledgable Frenchie introduce me to both. I went to two dégustations that compared new world wine with old world wine and thoroughly enjoyed both.
I think that about sums up my time in Montreuil. A very nice time, that I am grateful for.