Apparently, our neighborhood does not exist. Consult a tourist guide like Eyewitness Paris and there is an empty white space where one might expect to find Batignolles. The teal-green blob of Montmartre floats in a void separate from the colors that identify the other quartiers of the city. There is the 8ème and not much of the 16ème. The map is quite blank where one might expect to find the 17ème, 9ème and much of the 10ème. For that matter, there is no 19ème, 20ème, 11ème or 12ème. Just lots of nothing.
There’s a map on page 379 for “Useful Bus Routes.” None of this strikes me as useful. We’ve been on two hugely useful bus routes, the 74 and the 53, and neither of them is there.
I turned to the index. The word “Batignolles” appears on page 235, in the section called “Farther Afield.” Ah. There are a couple of notable markets (one of which is actually in the 8eme on the rue de Batignolles), a church and “several parks.” But short shrift is how I would describe the coverage.
Ever watch the program, “House Hunters International”? We’re fans, although we are ready to throw rotten tomatoes at the television every time Adrian Leeds appears in her damned red beret, which is every time an episode is filmed in Paris. She tries to shove as many clients as possible into the Marais where one is so “central” and the apartments are so full of “French charm.”
Recently a young woman, Kate, wanted a two-bedroom place to have space for a home office; her budget, predictably, was modest. After flogging out-of-budget studios in central Paris, Adrian took Kate to the 19eme near Père Lachaise cemetery, and had nothing but insults for the neighborhood. The area was so dull, so remote, the commute to work would be an outlandish forty-five minutes and worst of all, there were no bars, no restaurants, no nightlife. Fortunately, Kate had the courage of her convictions and went for the spacious, not-so-central apartment, which turned out to be a happy home. The rude thought of “up yours, Adrian,” flickered through my mind. “You of all people should know that to be anywhere in Paris is to feel that one is at the crossroads of the world.”
Our nearest Métro stop is La Fourche on ligne 13, or as we call it, “the light blue line.” It runs through Gare Saint-Lazare, which means that we have easy and direct access to nearly every other Métro line, and the RER trains as well. Our buses run us south to Opéra (53) and west Hotel de Ville (74).
Out here in what Adrian believes is No-Man’s-Land, streets are lined with shops, bars and brasseries. Morning rush hour is mostly people loading up on baguettes and croissants, parents walking little ones to school and workers heading toward a paycheck. There are several American-style grocery stores and countless specialty shops: greengrocers with the most gorgeous fruits and vegetables, boucherons displaying the freshest cuts, fromageries and charcuteries whose shelves are stocked with cheeses, sausages, and terrines. Would you like poulet roti for dinner? There are chickens roasting on every other corner.
Life is good here in Batignolles. Although the Eyewitness Guide and Adrian Leeds think our quartier is beyond the Pale, we know we are fully immersed in Paris.