Usha Bora, founder of , a beautiful line of Indian-made textiles and pillows with a Parisian twist, takes us on a tour of her favorite spots in the hip 10th arrondissement in her adopted hometown, Paris.
PARIS – My love affair with Paris began when I was 21. I visited the overwhelmingly beautiful city to carry a bag of Swarovski crystals back to India for my designer aunt from one of her bohemian, arty clients. Martine let me sleep over in her museum-like loft in Bastille, which was full of vintage trunks brimming with Jean Paul Gaultier pieces, palms and monstera of all sizes, and had a battered Mini Cooper in the courtyard.
A few years later, I was back — for good. I have lived in Paris for the last eighteen years, never far from vibrant neighborhoods like Rue Montorgueil or Canal Saint Martin. I use a very specific set of criteria to choose my home — I have to live close to a great cheesemonger (the smellier the better); neighborhood cafes must serve a Sunday breakfast of fresh bread, coffee, and orange juice; and, lastly, the more languages I hear spoken on the streets, the happier I am.
Today I live in a 120-year-old apartment with gorgeous exposed wooden beams in the hip 10th arrondissement, a short walk from Canal Saint Martin, where I opened my first Jamini boutique.
Buzzing with creative projects of all sorts — bars, restaurants, Pilates workshops, gorgeous florists, and a cafe-cum-bicycle-repair-spot next door — it's a melting pot of designers, architects, comedians, artists, and restaurateurs. On a five-minute walk across the street to pick up bread from cult bakery, , I catch conversations in Japanese, Swedish, Tamil, and Turkish. I can walk to the opera or to lovely Buttes Chaumont park in fifteen minutes. I love the late-night bars and gourmet burger joints that attract a young, cosmopolitan crowd who keep the streets buzzing.
This is a neighborhood where you see kids playing on Passage des Petites Ecuries, a tree-lined pedestrian street, on the terrace of , and in lovely Marché Saint Martin, scenes that remind me of New York's West Village. The 10th arrondissement is also full of Indian grocery stores. I can find everything from okra and saffron to basmati rice in Passage Brady on Boulevard de Strasbourg, as well as butter naan and chicken curry for six euros, a downright steal in this city.
This is easily my favorite neighborhood in Paris, and these are the spots that make it so.
80 Quai de Jemmapes; +33-1-44-88-24-48
A bar, restaurant, vintage store, African-inflected cultural space, and concert/fashion show venue all in one. Quirky decor, amazing cocktails, an organic Sunday market, and concerts by world musicians make it a one-of-a-kind place. I love the chaos. It feels like a lively bazaar — and it's all the more exciting because you can't see it from outside. It's one of the best spots for people watching in the neighborhood.
12 Rue de Lancry; +33-1-42-03-02-09
The secret spot where all my Parisian designer friends go for inspiration, it's the most emblematic luxury vintage shop in the town, filled with rare 1970s and '80s pieces by Hermès, Chanel, YSL, as well as unique and trendy goodies collected by founder Sylvie Chateigner.
39 Rue des Vinaigriers; +33-1-42-05-51-76
Chef Benoit Castel opened his pastry heaven in 2013. I love the modern interior design and airy feel, both a refreshing change from smaller, traditional neighborhood bakeries. My absolute favorite treat is sinful tarte à la pistache — a straight shot to paradise. Forget about counting calories!
104 Quai de Jemappes; +33-9-81-99-98-88
An elegant restaurant facing Canal Saint Martin where the minimalist menu change daily and the white walls and stylish decor provide the right backdrop for the Parisian bobo crowd.
7 and 9 Rue des Petites Écuries; +33-1-45-23-51-41
My favorite place for funky, no-frills music and where the likes of Prince and Chet Baker have performed. I've been lucky enough to see Martha High, Jacky Terrasson, Lucky Peterson, and John McLaughlin.
83 Quai de Valmy; +33-1-40-40-24-00
The emblematic bookstore and gallery is my favorite address for design, architecture, and photography finds. They have a great kids section and stock quirky city guides that I like to buy before trips. It's always crowded, which makes it a good spot for people watching, especially during monthly author signings.
10 Rue du Château d'Eau; +33-9-82-34-78-53
I am so lucky to have found a space for my first store in this neighborhood. My handcrafted pillows, scarves, notebooks, bags, and jewelry have a loyal clientele, and I am proud to know most of my customers.
5 Rue de Marseille; +33-1-42-39-84-46
My favorite French brand for no-fuss clothing. I love their minimalist style, beautiful materials, and attention to detail. Everything is chic and stylish.
10 Rue de la Grange aux Belles; +33-1-42-41-21-35
For plant lovers like me, the wildflowers and plants spilling out of the tiny store onto the sidewalk are a visual treat. This is not a traditional florist selling bouquets of roses and tulips. Shop owner Tom creates whimsical and romantic bouquets with carefully chosen flowers from small, country producers. I come for a treat after busy work weeks.
49 Rue des Vinaigriers; +33-1-40-37-16-21
Not your regular Chinese restaurant, the tiny spot serves delicious fare native to Xi'an, the capital of China's Shaanxi province. You'd be lucky to find a table in the crowded haunt, a well-kept secret among locals. I never miss the delightful pork sandwiches (similar to a Chinese hamburger with a dose of fresh coriander) and the wonderful casseroles of bouillon, glass noodles, beef, coriander, mushrooms, and seaweed.
34 Rue Yves Toudic; +33-1-42-40-44-52
The gem of a bakery is an institution in Paris and no trip to the 10th arrondissement would be complete without a stop. Be prepared to wait: Queues are long but worth it. Chef Christophe Vasseur uses traditional methods and sourdough to create his trademark pain des amis, a flatbread that is a must at every dinner I host. I occasionally treat myself to a slice of brioche or mouna — it's lightly scented with orange blossoms and is just heavenly.
For a limited time, Gentedimontagna readers based in the U.S. can shop beautiful textiles and pillows and recieve free shipping on orders above €50. Use the code FATHOMLOVESJAMINI after entering your delivery address at checkout. Offer expires July 31, 2016 and does not apply to carpets or furniture.