Detour: Illegal Paris

If you haven’t heard of Detour and you live in or are visiting San Francisco, Austin, New York City, London, Paris, Berlin, Barcelona, or Marrakech; do yourself a favor, download the app, and experience one of their self-guided walking tours today. My first Detour was Radiolab Austin, which covers the serial killings of servant girls in the late 1800s. The second one I did was Making Market Street in San Francisco.

Before visiting Paris this time, I was excited to tackle my third Detour, Illegal Paris. It takes you away from the usual tourist view of the city and into its historic and current underbelly. I also noticed a few things off the tour that you might also appreciate.

It starts in Montmarte at Au Lapin Agile. As I approached it, I saw some lovely architecture:

Stairs leading up to the first stop White house, green accents

Au Lapin Agile sounds like a fun place to spend an evening. The painting on the side is of a rabbit jumping out of a saucepan, hence the name. Picasso, one of the struggling, unknown artists who sought entertainment here, immortalized the cabaret in his painting of the same name. It’s the start of this Detour because it was historically a gathering place for questionable figures, including assassins, anarchists, and pimps. Across the street is a city-owned vineyard and organic garden.

An historic cabaret A vineyard in the middle of Paris

The next stop was Place du Terte, but you have to climb up a decent set of stairs to get there. I saw a young girl breathing new life into a box spring, and the stairs themselves were beautiful.

What is dead may never die. Stairing at symmetry

Place du Terte is a square surrounded by artists at their easels (the licensed ones) and some artists wandering about on foot (the unlicensed ones). The Detour talked about the walking artists and how some of them used to be licensed, but they got tired of dealing with the paperwork and overhead, so they started selling their art illegally. Licensing artists is supposed to keep the quality high, but I’m not sure that is necessarily true. You won’t see unlicensed artists hanging around if the police just appeared.

View from opposite side of Place du Terte Never smile at a crocodile Unlicensed artist walking and smoking

You’ll also see many unlicensed street sellers in front of La Basilica du Sacre Coeur and in the Barbès neighborhood. Ironically, many street sellers in front of the basilica peddle miniatures of the Eiffel Tower, but you can’t actually see it from the basilica. The street sellers Barbès offer everything from produce to purses.

Cat and mouse game at the basilica Crowded if the police aren't around

One spot I wish I’d got to see was La Ferme Parisienne, the only market in Paris that sells fresh chicken eggs. It was closed by the time I arrived just after 8pm on a Wednesday. (I believe it’s open until 6pm.)

On the way to the last couple of stops, I spotted an ornate water fountain:

Yes to water fountains!

The Market of Thieves is where you should go if your phone or bike got stolen: you might be able to buy them back there. Around the corner at the Barbès-Rochechouart Métro station, you will very likely see both a police car at the main entrance and people selling cigarettes tax-free at the side exit.

Sales are happening!

See the red and white boxes stashed above the do not enter sign? Those are cartons of cigarettes waiting to be sold. The sellers put them there so that the police cannot arrest them with cigarettes directly on them. As I was taking this photo, one of the sellers poked his head in my view to say hello: you are always being watched in this area. In fact, I was so paranoid when I got on the subway for taking this photo that I took out an almond croissant I’d purchased earlier and started stuffing my face with it just to prove that I had no intentions of turning anyone into the authorities.

I look forward to doing more self-guided walking tours with Detour in the future, even if it does mean stuffing my face on the subway afterwards.

Written on July 20, 2016