Urban street art is omnipresent in San Francisco, where I live. I love living surrounded by colorful creations. The Mission mural tours are a must see on a visit to the city by the Bay, but it was great to see so much public art in Paris. On a recent trip, I logged nearly 20,000 steps a day, crisscrossing the city with my cousin’s toddlers in a double stroller. Murals, graffiti and inventive art pieces — some built into the edifices –  were a constant source of conversation and joy. Some political and others whimsical, I only snapped pictures of a few. This one of a balloon afro was along the canal St. Martin in the 10th arrondissement. The gorgeous mural by Vinie went up days before our visit. We stopped at a little playground park nearby, and I couldn’t keep my eyes off it whilst trying to keep track of the kiddos.

Paris is, and has always been an artist and art lover’s paradise, with so many world class museums and such a history of support for the arts. Public art is greatly embraced and in 2016, Paris’ city hall announced that a hunk of the budget participatif –- the 500 million euros the set aside for the public to spend by 2020 –- would go towards the creation of murs d’expression, or street art walls, in all 20 arrondissements.

Glorious enough — bathed in early October light — with balmy temperatures, but I was so struck by the colorful additions around every corner. There are tours you can take in certain quarters — we spent time in the Marais and Belleville — but even if you are roaming, you will have plenty to see; just make sure to look up and down.

You may not have the luck we had with the weather, and you might not be as inclined to hoof all over the metropolis, but other outdoor pleasures include neighborhood markets. There are so many, from the abundant produce stands to antique and flea markets. I love checking out all the offerings and often linger and photograph the artistic displays. From squid to pigs feet, woodland fare to rabbits… the feast is mostly for the eyes.

The name Belleville literally means “beautiful town”. Belleville, a neighborhood situated on and around a hill which vies with Montmartre as the highest in Paris, is a new favorite. Historically a working class neighborhood, it was home to Edith Piaf and the iconic 1956 film The Red Balloon — written, produced, and directed by Albert Lamorisse — was shot here. Walking towards the market, I looked up, and much to my delight, saw this blue balloon waiting for it’s ‘friend’ outside an upper story window; a charming reminder of my love for the film.

Today, the colorful multi-ethnic neighborhood is popular with the hipster set. There were chic cafés, an Argentinian bistro and countless other interesting eateries.

We had an unusually sumptuous meal at a Kurdish restaurant and explored the chaotic Belleville Market. Locals from various cultures mingled with salty vendors and the occasional tourist; although this still felt off the beaten tourist path.

I bought the most hilarious “Euro” boxer shorts for my kids and now wish I had bought a few — at 2 Euros a pair — they are my college freshman’s new favorite. I was taken with these African textiles and purchased a few yards in the hopes of making kitchen curtains. Not far from the Père Lachaise Cemetery, it makes a nice day excursion; market days are Tuesdays and Fridays.

My other go-to market destination is the Marche au Puces (flea market) at Porte de Clignancourt. I try to get there on each visit, and luckily one of my best friends lives right near by. This time I got a hand-made Moroccan leather bag and some Senegalese tunics.

I was desperately trying to find blue Paris Saint-Germain football jerseys for my boys, but they only had yellow ones with the player Neymar’s name on them. My boys dislike him, so I struck out there, but many vendors took the time to make sure they didn’t have the coveted PSG shirts. We did a quick tour of the antique stalls and stopped for a cafe. I love the feel of this somewhat seedy, now trendy sprawling market. On the misty day we went, it was nice to stop at a local cafe for a croissant and coffee, sharing breakfast with many of the vendors and enjoying the wafting smell of a delicious veal stew lunch dish cooking in the kitchen.

Over the years I have purchased many of my favorite articles of clothing and items I especially cherish at the Marche au Puces. It takes time — like any market — to wade through the crappy stuff to find the gems.

Paris is chockfull of memorable spots and fabulous world class venues, but sometimes just walking the streets offers up more treasures.

Filed Under Cafe, Europe, Farmer's Markets, Fashion, Food, France, Markets, Paris, Restaurants, Traveling with babies


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