In today’s adventure of finding filter coffee in Paris (an everyday occurrence at this point), I stumbled upon a coffee-shop/restaurant called La Recyclerie two minutes from the sketchy, yet still recommendable Marché aux Puces and right next door to the always sketchy, and never recommendable KFC Porte de Clignancourt. Speaking of which, remember that time I, a full-fledged vegetarian, went on a casting for high school students for a KFC commercial in France. How ironic was that for an experience? After waiting 10 minutes in line at the juice bar line, the waitress said, “c’est pas moi qui sert le café; c’est au bar” (I’m not the one who serves filter coffee; it’s at the bar) – like, of course. Here we go with the French runaround. So I walk over to the bar.
And I literally waited another 15 minutes to order one filter coffee. Like, France, you know I love you, but what is it with these inefficient ways of yours. It pains me when I see the stereotype realizing itself. Had this been a hobunk lil’ café, I would have been out the door asap, however, with kitsch déco like this, my 15 minutes of wait weren’t as miserable.
15 minutes later and this:
Are you laughing? Cuz I am. Like please, don’t pour me too much. Really, though how you gon’ serve me half a glass of filter coffee. I mean, I know I only paid €1 for it (the whole reason I came here), but when your filter coffee probably comes from Monoprix at like €1,50 for a big bag, not to mention when you sell your cocktails for €7, I think you can afford to pour me at least a full small glass of filter coffee that no French person orders anyway.
I calmed my irritation, made my way past the indoor seating, through the outdoor terrace, past the organic garden, past the compost pile, past the chicken coop (I’m not kidding), and found an enclosed booth here:
Because I’m a broke b., you know I only go to cool restaurant and bars and buy coffees. Put me in Paris, and it’s even worse. The other day I ate on a typical French café terrasse, in the 20ème arrondissement near Gallieni, which could not be further from the touristy areas of Paris like Le Louvre or La Tour Eiffel, and I still, still, paid €11,50 for a basic-b salad and white toast with goat cheese. I didn’t dare to order an Orangina (an orange soda), because any soda cost €3,80. Like excuse-moi, but €3,80? Do you know how much food at the grocery store I can get for €3,80? Kale, eggs, and chocolate milk – my three favorite things.
Again, if it weren’t for their reused, recycled, and repurposed design of the place (I mean, it’s set in the abandoned train station, Gare Ornano) I would’ve been gonzo, but the café really is a cool place to check out while in Paris – that, and also probably about the only cool café you’ll find that sells filter coffee. Trust me, it is not a thing in Paris.
Along with the abandoned theme, I did my fair share of looking around at all the graffiti, trying to decipher, you know, what it was really saying. Didn’t figure it out, but I did get distracted when I realized, “Hold up, this is an ‘abandoned’ train station, so are these ‘abandoned’ train tracks?”
One filter coffee down and only a p’tit peek at these abandoned train tracks had me thirsting for more. I continued west following the train tracks until I found a group of angsty shirt-less Parisian youth tending a fire in 99 degree heat, which clearly made me rethink if I should be walking on an abandoned railroad. But, don’t ask me that, cuz you know my answer will always be “Yes!” I got off this portion of tracks, and walked on the sidewalk, still catching glimpses of the tracks and platforms now tagged with graffiti.
Within 15 seconds of a Google search, I learned that this was La Petite Ceinture (the little belt), an abandoned railroad jetting around Paris. The tracks date back 1852, when they were used primarily by the military as a quicker route around the city limits, which were at that time, much smaller than present day Paris. Some of the tracks are now abandoned, some have been repurposed for the Paris métro, and some have now been opened to the public, kind of like La Promenade Plantée in the 12ème.
That being said, I hopped on the Ligne 13 to Porte Vanves, then the T3a to George Brassens – a stop in the 15ème, where the City of Paris opened the 900m path along the south side of La Petite Ceinture. This section is completely legal, whereas the other portions, which are accessible by jumping over the fences are at your own risk. You’ll see parts of the railway all around the city from random parks, viewpoints, and streets. Because this portion was legal, I figured it would be completely packed with tourists and selfie-sticks, but when I arrived, I was all alone.
The fact that the City of Paris paved over half of the railroad tracks does kind of make this 10% less cool. I mean, it kind of takes away the fact that it was an abandoned railroad when you pave over part of the abandoned railroad.
On the bright side, I’m just still amazed that even in the most-visited city in the world, you can still find hidden pockets of peace and quiet. It’s the 1st of July at 4pm and I literally passed three people. Maybe on a day in Fall or Spring, you can successfully go the entire length of the path and not pass one person? You might even pass more people on one of the illegal parts.
My promenade on La Petite Ceinture lasted at most, a half-hour. Along the way you’ll pass by ahem, more graffiitti:
You’ll pass by over streets of the 15th arrondissement, and you’ll pass by this…half of a building:
All in all, this definitely makes my list of off-the-beaten-path (literally) things to do in Paris. Now it’s time to sneak over into the even more off-the-beaten-path parts, and if any of you have done so already, please let me know.
Have you been on La Petite Ceinture? The legal or the illegal part?
PS: For a map of La Petite Ceinture and all of its access points, check out: Entrer dans La Petite Ceinture (it’s in French).