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locks for canals and locks on bridges

Day 65 Canal St Martin

The canals of St Martin are revealed to us and I'm shockingly underwhelmed. I've been wanting to visit since Amelie skipped rocks to an almost hallucinatorily gorgeous Yann Tiersen soundtrack. Turns out, Amelie didn't heed the warning signs preventing people from getting near the locks. My Amelie shot is well out of my reach.

There's the ever-present locks on the railings of bridges. Locks, which turn out, to be the bane of the City of Love. They rust and chafe against the railings and weigh it down, weakening the structure and threatening to bring Parisian bridges down one by one. There's been crackdowns on people selling locks to tourists on the street and as a (lame) alternative, an early 2000s sounding e-message board called "Love Master Lock".

The real interest in Canal St Martin are the little boutiques, cafes, restaurants, and brunch places that spread out down sidestreets. We walk down the streets, peering into carefully curated windows, subway-tiled interiors, and beautiful young things lunching, brunching, laughing, and tossing their hair. We had plans to go to Holybelly for coffee but there's a Parisian crush in the narrow room and everyone looks like they've stepped out of an Isabel Marant lookbook. I'm not usually one to be intimidated by the combo of P.Y.T's, a tiled floor and brick wall, exposed pendant lighting, and overpriced coffee. In fact, I actively seek out those places. But as soon as you add in that element of "Parisians"; inexplicably, the game changes and I'm scurrying down the road.  

There are friendlier, less intimidating, and affordable shops. Antoine & Lilli, is a beacon of cheerful fluoro colours amidst all that conservative Parisian grey, blue, and cream. 

The next day (day 66), when we inexplicably find ourselves back at the Canals, I'm drawn in by the acid pink storefront of Pop Market, yet sorely disappointed that I could find a lot of the stock back home at my local fave, Iko Iko. The Papier Tigre stationery is made in France and very cute though. There are also some expensive Becksondergaard fancy totes and scarves in jaunty prints, tough canvas, and soft dyed leather. Later, I find the label on sale at ASOS.

Canal St Martin's also has a lot of street art; childishly colourful, belaboured, thickly outlined, cartoon-ish, sort of prosaic. It's like the not-so-secret code that you're in a place of young creatives with Apple laptops and no concept of 9-to-5 jobs. Like the sneakers thrown over electric wires signal that there's a person dealing marijuana nearby. Really. 

On Day 65, we barely spend more than thirty or forty minutes at the Canals, before begging off to wind our way through the more lively, multicultural streets near the hulking bulwark of Porte Saint Denis. They're buzzing, lined with wig and weave shops, and it seems like everyone is out loitering on the streets. We pass a large intersection and the police are there, interviewing bystanders. It's like coming to work when everyone in your building has already been evacuated and is sort of stuck in limbo like Should I stay or should I go now?

We happen upon a burger place that we've heard about on our nightly internet jaunts through places to eat in Paris. It's called Paris New York Hamburgers because, guys, Paris has a thing for American stuff. An American in Paris is even opening soon at the Theatre du Chatelet. We chat with the Canadian guy waiting for his takeaway burgers. His French is even worse than ours but he's got family in Paris. The only people to ever strike up conversation with us are Canadians. Without fail. 

For 15.50 euro, you get whatever burger you want, salad, chips, and a drink. Everything is delicious. Rob has only wild appreciation for the use of American yellow cheddar, the fresh brioche bun, and the fact that the salad (which is basically just a hunk of shredded lettuce) is topped with mayonnaise and bacon shards. I marvel at the appearance of a carafe of tap water in front of us, with no prompting.

By the end of 65, we've walked from Canal St Martin, through the Marais, and to the Notre Dame. The sun set pink and lavender in front of us. 

Down Passage du Grand Cerf, there's super cute shops selling fancy sparkly Parisian socks, twee homeware, and tin plates. We dip into our dwindling euros to buy a print from a Parisian artist at L'illustre Boutique because we're print suckers.

We also walk past the nonchalant prostitutes, languishing against the narrow openings between buildings, to rummage through vintage shops. Our buddy Thomas Chatterton Williams would like this part of town, I'm sure. Episode is well-stocked, particularly with menswear, flannel shirts, raincoats, and sneakers. Everything is under 25 euros. There are some pretty vintage dresses that, thankfully, aren't all polyester. The imaginatively-named "Vintage World" (with a whiff of American theme park thrown in) has tons of scarves and the owner is stops to chat with everyone in store.

Back home for dinner, there's terrine, Beaujolais (to coincide with Beaujolais Nouveau Day), and Carl Marletti pastries.

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