I Love Touring Paris - The Thirteenth Arrondissement


I love touring Paris so much that I am doing a series on both the well known and the rarely visited tourist attractions of Paris's twenty arrondissements (districts). This article visits the thirteenth arrondissement in southeastern Paris. We suggest French wine and food to increase your touring pleasure.

The thirteenth arrondissement of southeastern Paris is located on the Left Bank of the Seine River. Its land area is relatively large by Parisian standards, measuring more than two and three quarter square miles (over seven square kilometers). This district has a population over one hundred seventy thousand and is home to about ninety thousand jobs. Both population and employment figures are growing, largely due an influx of Asian immigrants. 

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Les Olympiades is a residential high-rise district built well over thirty years ago on a huge, elevated pedestrian esplanade complete with a shopping mall, the Pagode (Pagoda) at the center. To many people this complex looks like a smaller version of La Défense, Europe’s largest business district, situated just west of Paris. A driverless Métro (subway) feeds the complex, running every four minutes during the extended rush hour. Nearby is the huge Paris Rive Gauche project built on and near old railroad yards. Once again we are talking mostly high-rises. If that’s your bag, be my guest.

I Love French Wine and Food - An Alsace Riesling

If you are looking for fine French wine and food, consider the Alsace region of northeastern France. You may find a bargain, and I hope that you'll have fun on this fact-filled wine education tour in which we review a local white Riesling winetasted with several meals and paired with imported cheeses.

Alsace ranks tenth out of the eleven French winemaking regions in terms of its acreage devoted vineyards. But don’t be mislead by statistics; little Alsace is a major producer of quality French wine. Its wine growing area is barely 60 miles (100 kilometers) long, and at most 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) wide tucked between the Vosges Mountains to the west and the Rhine River and Germany to the east. But this relatively tiny area is famous for its distinctive wines. Their wine bottles are also distinctive; tall and thin with labels that feature the grape variety, not the usual practice in France. Chaptalization (adding sugar to the fermenting grape mixture) is allowed for many wine categories.

About 95% of Alsace wine is white. The major white grape varieties are Gewurztraminer, Muscat, Pinot Gris, and Riesling, reviewed below. Its secondary white grape varieties include Pinot Blanc, Sylvaner, and Muscat. The major red grape variety is Pinot Noir, reviewed in a companion article in this series.

I Love Touring Paris - The Twelfth Arrondissement

The twelfth arrondissement of eastern Paris is located on the Right Bank of the Seine River. It contains one of Paris’s largest parks, the Bois de Vincennes described below. Its land area is about 6.3 square miles (16.3 square kilometers) counting the park. If you exclude the Bois de Vincennes the land area is less than 2.5 square miles (about 6.4 square kilometers). The population is about one hundred thirty seven thousand inhabitants, and the area is home to over one hundred twelve thousand jobs, mostly in the Bercy area near the Seine.

The Place de la Bastille was the site of the infamous Bastille prison, destroyed in the early days of the French Revolution. The square is shared by the fourth, eleventh, and twelfth arrondissements. Nothing of the old prison remains, except the memories. At the center of the square is the Colonne de Juillet (July Column) a 154 foot (fifty meter) column commemorating the 1830 Revolution in which King Charles X was overthrown in favor of his cousin Louis-Phillippe.

The Bastille was built in the late Fourteenth Century to help defend Paris and was converted into a prison, mostly for political prisoners, in the Seventeenth Century. At the time of its destruction the Bastille was composed of eight eighty foot (twenty-four meter) towers and an armory. By that time the cachots (dungeons) had been abandoned and the prison was not considered the worst in the city. When it was stormed on July 14, 1789 the jail contained seven inmates: four counterfeiters, two madmen, and a young aristocrat on the outs with his father. During the storming ninety-eight attackers and one defender died. Others died afterwards, including the governor. During excavation for the Paris Metro the remains of one tower surfaced and are on display in a nearby park. The Bastille square is often used in political demonstrations, and the area is full of night life, in particular to the northeast.

I Love French Wine and Food - A Midi Syrah

If you are looking for fine French wine and food, consider the Languedoc-Roussillon region of south central France. You may find a bargain, and I hope that you’ll have fun on this fact-filled wine education tour in which we review a local red Syrah.

 Among the eleven wine-growing regions of France, Languedoc-Roussillon ranks fourth in total vineyard acreage. This area, which includes the Midi, (the home of the wine reviewed below) was traditionally known for producing ton after ton of mediocre table wine called vin ordinaire. But times change and in spite of global warming Languedoc-Roussillon has started to produce fine wine. Some say that visiting Australian winemakers are largely responsible for this improvement.

Languedoc-Roussillon is home to about three dozen grape varieties ranging from the widely known such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah to the quite obscure such as Aspiran Noir, Aspiran Gris, and Lladoner Pelot. If I ever get my hands on one of those rare grape varieties, I promise to review the wine. But I won’t be holding my breath.

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I Love Touring Paris - the Eleventh Arrondissement

The eleventh arrondissement of eastern Paris sits on the Right Bank of the Seine River. With its one hundred fifty thousand residents jammed into slightly more than 1.4 square miles (less than 3.7 square kilometers) this is the most densely populated district of Paris and in fact the most densely populated urban district in Europe. The area hosts over seventy thousand jobs.

This district has become bohemian and trendy, perhaps because other bohemian, trendy districts have priced themselves outside the stratosphere. The eleventh arrondissement is home to a lot of nightlife. And there is a lot of day life as well, restaurants, cafes, boutiques, and galleries.

The Cirque d'hiver (Winter Circus) has been around for more than 150 years. It's a unique looking building with twenty sides festooned with large columns at the angles. This building has long been a circus. It has also been a concert hall and even one of the first Parisian cinemas. The owners rent it out for almost any purpose. There is a single stage-circus ring and happily no pillars or other obstructions to ruin the view of well over fifteen hundred spectators. In the old days there were a lot more seats but the fire marshals intervened and voila. A swimming pool under the circus ring makes for some very fine water shows. The Cirque d'Hiver was highlighted in a famous Seurat painting, and featured in a celebrated Avedon fashion photograph, and the 1950s movie "Trapeze", starring Gina Lollobrigida, Tony Curtis, and Kirk Douglas.