The day we arrived in Paris at the end of January there was a snowstorm. Walking around, while possible, was none too pleasant for about 48 hours. After that, though, we gradually became aware of what our street, avenue du Général Leclerc, and its surroundings have to offer. First of all, this section of the Left Bank in the 14th arrondissement is absolutely packed with shops. In the half-mile stretch between the place Denfert-Rochereau with its Lion de Belfort and the métro Alésia, there are two McDonalds (oh, yes, Macdos, as they are referred to, are ubiquitous in France), three Monoprix, and four telephone stores. Add to the list multiple banks, shoe stores, a discount china shop, a store just for underwear (humorously called Undiz), and countless other businesses of all kinds. I think you could spend your entire life without leaving this small area.
At the north end of our street, one finds the rue Daguerre. Named for the inventor of the photographic process called the daguerréotype, the small road is a pedestrian walkway between Général Leclerc and the rue Boulard. Apparently the street used to be a covered market but now just has small shops opened out onto it. Anyway, we often drop by individual shops to pick up fish, meats, vegetables, cheese, and wine—though that hardly encompasses everything you can purchase there.
To the south you head toward the métro stop at Alésia. American businesses are well-represented on this stretch of the street: Starbucks, Subway, and KFC—not that we frequent them at all. There are also two large Gaumont movie theatres in this direction. The Alésia is now showing Django Unchained, Hitchcock, Happiness Therapy (which was somehow deemed a more acceptable “French” title than Silver Linings Playbook), and Lincoln among other films; Mistral seems to have many more French offerings, though Zero Dark Thirty is playing there. As for food in this section, there is another permanent market similar to the one on rue Daguerre where you can get most of the same things only on a much smaller scale. Of course, there are temporary marchés which are set up around the neighborhood, as well. Tuesdays and Fridays there’s one on rue Mouton-Duvernet and Wednesdays on Edgar Quinet. So far it’s been kind of cold and windy to really enjoy walking around these morning outdoor markets, but we’ll take more advantage of them as the weather warms up.
Montparnasse has gone through many phases over the decades. The intellectual and artistic heart of the city in the 1920s and 30s, famous people such as Picasso, Hemingway, and James Joyce rubbed shoulders in cafés like Le Select and La Closerie des Lilas. After that period, though, Montparnasse fell on hard times. Yet, once again redefining itself, the 14th has recently undergone a process of gentrification. The diversity of the people and the energy of the area make it a nice place to live. Having shopkeepers starting to recognize us gives the impression of being at home in the city.