The last couple of days have been bright and sunny, leading us once more out of doors and putting the art exhibitions on our list on the back burner. Yesterday we had a sudden urge for a Vietnamese banh mi sandwich and headed up to Belleville to visit Saigon Sandwich, recommended by Clotilde and saved for the day the urge hit.
We walked from Place de la Republique to Boulevard de Belleville and once again had one of those "this is not your father's Paris" experiences. Most of the people we passed were Asian or African or Arab and the stores reflected it. The shop above caters to African and Caribbean customers with a specialty in candles, Bibles, icons and incense, as well as apparently everything you can think of anyone might need.
The architecture was a melange of styles, periods and conditions. It ranged from this low row of what may have been 19th century worker's housing
to what appears to be the height of 1930s chic
and included this almost country cottage at the back of a courtyard.
Just to remind you of what century you're really in, this emply lot has become a tagger's paradise.
Prices here are significantly cheaper than in central Paris. This halal butcher (they're virtually all halal, except for the single kosher one I spotted) sells his spit-roasted poulets for less than half what they go for in my local market.
And speaking of butchers, I wonder if this cow's head over an impressive double height entry gate might have marked the home of a successful 19th century meat merchant.
As we passed Avenue Parmentier I couldn't help taking a picture of this load of potatoes in the street. The avenue is named after the pharmacist Antoine-Augustin Parmentier, the man single-handedly responsible for convincing the French to eat potatoes. Without him, no French fries, a possibility that makes one shudder. As far as I'm concerned he deserves to have an avenue named after him (and a métro station as well). The French reward their heros.
When we finally got to Saigon Sandwich, a tiny hole in the wall, we had worked up an appetite. When I told the very nice man that Clotilde had sent us he sang her praises. She had never told him she was a journalist and he knew nothing about her until a reader of Chocolate and Zucchini had told him about it. Since then the printout of her blog post about him has been fading away in his window. He told us proudly about how his sandwiches were artisanale, hand made to order and the meat steamed rather than boiled, explaining the advantages of that method.
We ordered one poulet sandwich and one jambonneau and took them back to the bank of the Canal St-Martin to eat. How were they? We're still dreaming of our local banh mi joint in El Cerrito.