A different walking tour of Chateau Rouge and Montmartre, part 1


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July 20th 2012
Published: December 8th 2012
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Chateau Rouge, Paris, France
'Hi, I'm Oscar from Barcelona, who are you?' 'I'm Erika from Finland' 'I'm Gosia from Poland' awkward silence... 'So what are you guys doing in France? Are you here for the meeting? Travelling?' And so on and so on.

Having been abroad as much as I have and having encountered as many people through my travels, I have become quite used to the traditional greetings of backpackers and globetrotters. Thus, arriving at two o'clock at Chateau Rouge Metro station, finding 50 other travellers standing around in a loose formation didn't really freak me out. However, it always is a bit intimidating to get yourself out there and meet and greet new people.

The reason that we all showed up at Chateau Rouge was because we had received a general invitation through the activity calendar of the CouchSurfing community in Paris. Through a weekend in July, the CS'ers in Paris had organised a long list of events and parties - for free. This Friday afternoon, it was possible to take part in a tour through the 18th arrondissement. As a 18th fanatic, I could hardly let the possibility of hearing someone else's tales pass me by.

Our guide was
CouchSurfing Tour Paris 2012CouchSurfing Tour Paris 2012CouchSurfing Tour Paris 2012

Chateau Rouge, Paris, France
named Luis and is originally from Colombia, though he has lived in Paris for a long long time, having fallen in love with the diverse areas and neighbourhoods making up the 18th. A man I can relate to. For the next 6 hours Luis would take us through Chateau Rouge, Montmartre and Pigalle talking about known as well as unknown facts on the way. In this blog, I hope to recount the tour of Luis, which happened entirely in French and Spanish. So as I mentioned, we started at two o'clock on a Friday afternoon at the metro station Chateau Rouge.

Chateau Rouge

The name Chateau Rouge, Red Castle, takes its name from a small manor which was likely build on the spot between 1775 and 1795 and demolished again in 1875. From 1845 and until 1870, it functioned as a very popular dance hall, and afterwards as, headquarters for the National Guard during the Paris Commune in 1871.

The neighbourhood had begun to truly develop in the 1840's and had quickly become an area of diverse socio-economic groups. Before long it also became an ethnically diverse area with first French people from other regions moving in
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La Goutte D'Or, Paris, France
and then Belgians, Italians, Polish and Spanish.

Moving to the 1950's the neighbourhood came to increasingly reflect the different colonial regions of the French Empire. From the 1920's until and particularly during the 1950's, a large North African community grew out of La Goutte D'Or. In the 1960's these were joined by the influx of Yugoslavians, Portuguese, Indians and Chinese. And in the 1980's, many from sub-Saharan Africa came along. Finally there has been an immigration of Pakistanis, Afghanis, and Latin-Americans. With such immigration it can hardly surprise that the proportion of immigrants in the area increased from 11,3%!i(MISSING)n 1962 to 24,7%!i(MISSING)n 1975 and to 34,9%!i(MISSING)n 1982. Today La Goutte D'Or existes of a staggering 41,4%!f(MISSING)oreigners, which is twice the average of the 18th arrondisement, 20,6%!,(MISSING) and three times the average in all of Paris, 15,6%! (MISSING)There are today 143 different nationalities in the neighbourhood.

Such diversity makes the area extremely exotic to wonder around for a transparent Danish girl, and just as Brussels's Motangé neighbourhood it is a little piece of Africa. See A love manifesto for Brussels. The area is a truly hectic and immensely chaotic place for newcomers. At Rue DeJean there is a huge
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unknown theatre, La Goutte D'Or, Paris, France
outdoor African market which is open all days but Monday, from 8h to 19h. Here you can find anything you can dream of from Northern Africa, but also quite a lot of illegal trade of bling bling goods, which means that the police visit the plays every once in a while. Saturday morning the place is particularly crowded, when people come from all over l'Île de France, Luxembourg and Belgium to shop colourful clothes, cheap jewellery, spices and food.

Crossing Boulevard Barbès

Blv Barbès is the demarcation line in between Chateau Rouge and the Goutte D'Or on the Eastern side and Montmartre on the Western side. Moving down towards Metro Barbès Rouchechouart, both sides light up with huge pink patterned signs saying Tati.

Tati is known as Gallerie Lafayette pour les pauvres. It stretches to several levels both beneath and above ground in the buildings around Blv Barbès, Blv Rouchechouart and Blv de la Chapelle. As a huge bazar where you can buy anything the heart desires, it provides a cheap alternative to Parisian shopping for the poorer parts of the population. It is overcrowded at all times, but particularly on Saturdays. And the surrounding streets are
Rue DejeanRue DejeanRue Dejean

Chateau Rouge, Paris, France
a steady chaos of people with Tati-shopping bags. Personally, I found two very cute summer dresses for a bare 8 euros a piece. It is definitely not a stupid place to go if you are in need of basic kitchenware or an extra tee or towels. And then it is simply an experience on its own. The department store was created by a Tunisian Jew in 1948. He wanted to name it Tita after his aunt, but since the name was already taking he changed it to Tati.

Not far away on 26, Rue de Clignancourt an impressive building hides away. However, it is nothing compared to what it used to be when it was Les Grands Magasins Dufayel. The department store opened in 1856, and was at that time called Palais de la Nouveauté. However, when former employee Georges Dufayel took over in 1888, he made massive changes to the place which at its height took up an entire city block in between Blv Barbès and Rue Clignancourt (about a hectare of land). Just as most hyper malls today, the department store housed a theatre, a cinema, a winter garden and a cycling ring. It was the first
Jack Nicholson, The ShinningJack Nicholson, The ShinningJack Nicholson, The Shinning

Goutte D'Or, Paris, France
and biggest of its kind and at the beginning of the 20th century it employed 15.000 people. The place closed in 1930 after a fire had damaged much of the place. Today only a small part is left standing used by BNP Paris. The statues on the top of the building represent progress as supported by trade and industry. To each side of the old entrance their is a statue representing credit and publicity, respectively.

After gawping at the beautiful building, Luis took us up the Montmartre hill, but I'll leave that for the next blog, just so I can write:

Will be continued...

See A different walking tour of Chateau Rouge and Montmartre, part 2

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