I have been stalking the Canal St. Martin neighborhood for more than a decade now. The first time I visited I knew that it is where I would choose to live if moving to Paris. It was a perfect place to wander, we found a coffee shop, a book store and a large Antoine and Lili store but it was not full of shopping, galleries or other commerce that often bring you to visit a neighborhood– it just appealed as an excellent place to live. On subsequent visits we saw new stores popping up, more cafes and restaurants...today it is both a great place to live and a destination.
When deciding where to stay on our most recent trip I learned that a new small hotel had recently opened right on the canal, I did not hesitate, I made a reservation at Le Citizen. In addition to the hotel being located in what I consider the perfect spot there were many other advantages it was– small, comfortable, you get an ipad lent to you upon check in, the staff and owner are knowledgeable and helpful, the construction and practices are ecologically aware...in short it was hard to leave and we will stay there on our next trip.
Staying on the canal gave us a chance to explore the neighborhood, on the street (rue de Lancry) between Jacques Bonsergent (our metro stop) and the hotel there is a paper shop, a fabulous flower store, a variety of small specialty food shops– Italian, Lebanese, Greek, fruit...a late night falafel joint that proved invaluable for an after ballet snack one night, intriguing clothing and vintage stores and a fabulous design bookstore. There are also several spots that beg you to stop for a drink or a glass of wine including Le Verre Vole and Hotel du Nord.
The blocks surrounding Le Citizen were full of food shops, clothing stores, galleries, flower shops, cafes... I am anxious to explore each one on future visits. We did find two new favorites: a bakery, Du Pain et Des Idees and La Tete Dans Les Olives.
Since "discovering" Du Pain et Des Idees I learned that the excellent bread is not exactly a secret...Alain Ducasse serves bread from this bakery at his Paris 3 star restaurant, Plaza Athenee. The Pain des Amis is one of the best breads I have ever tasted– slightly fermented, nutty, whole wheat and woodsy. We also tried a stuffed bread that was kind of like a French version of an empanada filled with olives and thyme– memorable. I have no doubt that everything from this bakery is worth trying.
La Tete Dans Les Olives is about a 10 minute walk from Le Citizen hotel. The tiny store is packed with products from Sicily. The owner travels to Sicily every year for the olive harvest and processing of the oil and returns back to Paris with a variety of oils that he has made. He does not own property but rather visits friends olive farms and the names of the oils reflect the owners of the various properties. The processing procedure is the same for each oil but the tastes vary greatly depending on the variety of olive, soil and other growing conditions. We tasted several oils and wanted to bring home one of each but settled on two, a very grassy tasting Paolo and a rich and intense oil called Francesco. We also tasted the most delicious capers, sun-dried tomatoes, fig cookies and a dried persimmons. This store is worth a detour! They also do a 5 seat restaurant a few times a week, sadly there was no spaces available but it is on the top of my list for my next visit.