Unpretentious yet trendy – we’re here!


We had the evening to see the hipper east end of Paris and then tomorrow, we would take the train out to Auvers-sur-Oise. Back on the Van Gogh trail. I was looking forward to that, and as it turned out, it was one of the highlights of the trip.

But first, dinner. For this trip, we weren’t big on reservations or fancy restaurants. Next time (soon!), we’ll kick it up a notch. I knew we wanted to be in the Oberkampf area and took the Metro there. Here’s what the Eurocheapo site says about the neighbourhood:

Paris East Map

Café Charbon is right next to the Nouveau Casino in the upper left corner. Our hotel is down Blvd Voltaire off the bottom of the map. Use Pere Lachaise to get your barings.

“The 11th arrondissement is an unpretentious yet trendy Parisian district. Its heart is rue Oberkampf. Drinks and food along this street run about half what they do in more touristy areas like Saint Michel and the Latin Quarter. Happy Hour in most bars runs from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., with cocktails going for around €4 and pints at €3. Oberkampf is also one of the few thoroughfares in Paris where it’s easy to find snack food after 3 a.m.

More importantly, this hilly and quaint neighborhood has retained a real Parisian atmosphere, with narrow winding streets and family owned cafés.”

That’s about right. We found a postcard perfect little restaurant, Le Trou Normand, and had a quiet dinner (fish, lamb) with a half of rosé which everyone seemed to be drinking in Paris. It wasn’t a “meal of a lifetime”, but charming, comforting. They were playing a Herman Dune CD, which I found funny because I’d just started listening to him before we left on this trip.

Cafe Charbon Paris

I had to "borrow" this from the net since I didn't take any shots that evening. Anyway, at the Café Charbon we had the two seats on the far left, and this shot reflects the way it was that night too.

Then we set out to find Café Charbon on Rue Oberkampf which I’d read about. Apparently this was the place that started it all for this neighbourhood and it was still a going concern.

It started raining just as we found it. It was packed. We walked up and down the street a bit and as we came back to it, two seats on the patio (covered to protect us from the rain) opened up for us. A couple of pastis, and we had a ringside view of the street action.

This truly is a different side of Paris, where the “real people” live. We relaxed. Rain slowed down. Walked to the Metro, back to the hotel and sleep. Prepare for tomorrow and our trip to Auvers.

A quick run down on Auvers-sur-Oise. Although it’s only about 30 km north west of Paris, it takes about an hour and two trains to get there. It’s a charming village stretched out along the banks of the Oise River and well-known as an artist’s town. Cézanne had been through there; Daubigny’s house is now a museum. This is where Van Gogh painted 70 canvases during the last 70 days of his life. We would see the room he lived and died in, eat in the restaurant where he took his daily meals (downstairs from his room), see many of the places he painted, visit the house of the nutty Dr. Gachet and finally visit the cemetery to see the Vincent and Theo headstones.

Auvers - train tunnel Auvers express

The train station underpass in Auvers. It was a big deal when the train first came there from Paris, just before Van Gogh's time.


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