And where they came by or down, was the Canal St Martin, then (in 1992) a somewhat shabby area, gone to seed since the glory days of the Hotel du Nord and the film of the same name (1938) that featured Arletty, who also played Garance in Marcel Carne’s Enfants de Paradis. Now, what a difference fifteen years has made.
This last fall I went to eat at Garance (which I assume was named after Garance, Arletty’s role) on a weekend and was startled by the difference. Instead of grey buildings huddled over the canal, there were brightly colored boutiques lining it; instead of drab Hotels du Nord-lookalikes, there were freshly sandblasted facades; and instead of unwelcoming industrial blocks, there were welcoming paths and plants. (I’ve already written about that day above in an essay called “The new hot quarter – the 10th – update,” but it deserves yet another update.)
But most changed were the citizens. Whereas along that Olympic torch route, thousands of flabby spectators watched a small bunch of fit runners go by, that afternoon there were tons of runners, skaters, bikers and poussette-pushing joggers – all fit and raring to go.
Granted it was a sunny, warm fall afternoon, not a cold, drizzly evening, but it was as thrilling as the torch parade; except these were young mothers and fathers and their kids.
More recently**, Colette and I went, sharing equally good dishes – a tempura of squid and scallops, veal liver again, mesclun and fresh winter veggies, followed by a new digestif (for me) Manzana Verde (green apple). I’m not sure how much more highly rated I judged Garance because of the street scene, but it certainly was by itself, very, very good grub.
The moral of the story, today’s grubby area may be tomorrow’s hot new quartier.
**My last meal at Garance was 29 December, 2007, fully paid for.
My favorite then in Boboland, now shuttered, was:
Garance (no longer open)
96, quai de Jemmapes,10th, (Metro : Republique, Gare de l’Est)
Lunch menu 18 €; a la carte 30-40
*Originally published in February 2008.