Updated: Jun 25
Last December I had the chance to experience a very out-of-the-beaten-track tour in the outskirt of Paris, the Sunday market of Saint Denis, the biggest one in Ile-de-France, right before its opening hours.
During a university conference I met Monsieur Glaymann, inhabitant of this outskirt of the city and active member of the association Accueil Banlieues. His passion for suburbs fascinated me immediately. Together with ExploreParis, he organises thematic walks to discover practices and traditions which characterised the Parisian banlieues (suburbs), very often forgotten in the shadow of the main central neighbourhoods.
This concept is in line with the Grand Paris, a project to give value to these departments which are just around the city and whose inhabitants preserve a special type of immaterial heritage.
Accueil Banlieues offers tours and accommodation to tourists transiting in the region, but also to Parisians moved by the curiosity to know how's life extra-muros. The main aim is to create a relationship and to tell a different story of Paris, a story that comes from people who love their territory and have a true passion. << We are the heritage ! >> is a fundamental statement of the Faro Convention about communities heritage.
My curiosity pushed me to participate in one of these activities : a visit of Saint Denis market before its opening to the public. Ok ok, waking up at 4:30am on a Sunday morning wasn't easy, but I discovered an unusual side of the city where I've been living since last September.
Beginning of the visit at 6am, when the market is still in preparation.
The colours of the sun that is shyly rising up, fruits and vegetables extremely well ranged, a very cosmopolitan vibe, the collect of rubbish and the precise division into carton, plastic and organic, the smell of fresh pastries coming from the bakeries, a group of African ladies busy preparing delicious corn bread with tomatoes.
We were immersed in a totally different atmosphere and I was so impressed to see with my eyes the organisation of a market without the usual crowd all around.
We assisted at the drawing lots to assign the locations to temporary exposers, whereas the permanent once (about 50) have their own inside place that they generally inherit from generation to generation. I could feel a special bond between these people that share a passion for their work, quite a difficult one considering the hard working hours and the physical efforts.
A central aspect of the visit is the collect of cartons, an activity that contributes to the amelioration of the neighbourhoods and creates local employment. In 2016, 497 tons of cartons have been collected and recycled in 30 outskirt areas including Saint-Denis and Aubervilliers markets, giving a job to 16 people. Without Monsieur Glaymann, its engagement and its passion, the visit wouldn't have been the same.
In a suburb department whose image is still very associated to criminality and smuggling, I discovered a special place, the local market, which is for its inhabitants the heart of Saint Denis, a meeting point, a place of traditions and savoir-faire.
In that moment we felt like we were living something absolutely authentic and true, not a tailor-made activity to accomplish tourists needs. These tours have an important role of sensitisation and education concerning life outside the city center of major metropoles - such as Paris - which guard a special immaterial heritage.
In that moment we felt we were living something absolutely authentic and true, not a tailor-made activity to accomplish tourists needs. If you want to know Saint Denis and its people, you have to come to the Sunday morning market, told us Monsieur Glaymann.
And he was right.
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