Explore the Unvisited La Mouzaïa District in Paris

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Explore the Unvisited La Mouzaïa District in Paris
So, you’ve visited Paris several times now. You’ve “done” all the major sights: Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Musée d’Orsay. You may have gone a bit further afield and maybe explored Montparnasse or Batignolles. Or you just be feeling adventurous for your first visit. But one district that you quite likely don’t know is out in the 19th arrondissement, called La Mouzaïa. Close by is possibly the best park in Paris: the Buttes-Chaumont. In this article I am going to take you on an exploration of this delightful neighborhood high up in northeast Paris. We start at the métro station Danube on Line 7bis. This odd little line is a loop whose only purpose seems to be to serve a handful of stations that would otherwise be disconnected from the main network. It is, however, easy to reach from Jaurès station (Lines 2 and 5) or Place des Fêtes (Line 11). The corner of the Rue de la Fraternité and Rue de l’Egalité. © Pat Hallam Taking the Rue David d’Angers away from the métro and almost immediately turning right into the Rue de la Fraternité, we are plunged into a very un-Parisian streetscape. No tall Haussmannian buildings here, because the whole area is built upon disused gypsum quarries. When the quarries closed towards the end of the 19th century and the land sold for redevelopment, the Ville de Paris stipulated that buildings should be only two storeys high, including the ground floor; the ground was too unstable for anything taller. (Only occasionally do you find a three-storey building.) The result is a distinctive network of small streets that have a provincial, decidedly un-Parisian air. Rue de l’Egalité. © Pat Hallam By the way, the gypsum was sold around the world, even to the White House, giving this area its other name: Quartier d’Amérique. As we reach the top of Rue de la Fraternité it meets Rue de la Liberté and Rue de l’Égalité, which curves round to the left and we see the first of the “villas” that are a feature of this area. Villa usually means a house, but in Paris it signifies a narrow, pedestrian lane. The “villas” in La Mouzaïa were deliberately planned to provide single houses for the quarry workers. Although intended for the working class, from the start La Mouzaïa was an early example of gentrification. Policymakers believed that enabling workers to buy their own homes would give them a greater stake in society and increase political stability. At this time the Third Republic was still in its infancy and there was a lot of political unrest. Small deposits and cheap mortgages allowed modest families to buy their own homes. Consequently, the residents of La Mouzaïa were already a cut above the vast majority of working-class Parisians who lived in cramped, unhealthy, rented apartments. The man who created property credit, Alexandre Ribot, is commemorated in the name of one of the villas.
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Lead photo credit : The view from the Temple de la Sibylle in the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont. © Pat Hallam

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Pat Hallam fell in love with Paris when she was an adolescent. After many years of visiting, in 2020 she finally moved from the UK to live here and pursue her passion for the city. A freelance writer and history lover, she can spend hours walking the streets of this wonderful city finding hidden courtyards, bizarre and unusual landmarks and uncovering the centuries of history that exist on every street corner (well, almost). You can find the results of her explorations on Instagram @littleparismoments.

Comments

  • Ellen Corradini
    2021-12-16 11:51:06
    Ellen Corradini
    Pat, thank you for this fascinating look at La Mouzaïa. I spent an hour wandering around there this past fall and want to return when I'm back in Paris in the spring to explore more deeply. I haven't yet been to Les Buttes Chaumont so will include it when I return. Merci!

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    • Pat Hallam
      2021-12-17 08:18:01
      Pat Hallam
      Thank you for enjoying it. Please do visit the Parc des Buttes Chaumont - it's a beautiful park & quite different from the formal French style such as the Luxembourg or Tuileries. The Parc Montsouris in the 14th is landscaped in a similar style.

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