Things to do in Saint Ouen, Paris

Disregard the 15 Top Things recommended by Trip Advisor, which would have you spend a lot of time on the Metro visiting the famous sites of Paris. Yes, Saint Ouen is on Metro, Bus and Train routes that make it a hub for visiting other places. But why not enjoy Saint Ouen itself? Instead my top 15 are:

1. Walkabout

Why spend your days leaving your locality in the morning and returning in the evening. Walk about your locality and get to know it.

Saint Ouen, old and new

Houses for demolition to make way for the Olympic Village

A Sample of bland Apartment Blocks of the coming time

House, built around 1930

Interesting character of some old buildings

2. Observe how Saint Ouen is Changing

Under its local administration (and Communist Mayors from 1945 to recent), Saint Ouen completed a most remarkable large housing development, larger than Ballymun in Dublin, but done in great style, with buildings of high quality design and great variety, and wonderful open spaces and recreational facilities and vegetable allotments, as well as shops, theatres and business premises, and everything a community would need. 60% of the apartments are in private ownership and 40% public, a wonderful balance, providing quality cultural space for all: (click twice to start the  video, and use full-screen mode)

I intend to join the two videos together and, perhaps, add music.
  Now some photos:

Decorative screens mask kick-about area from pedestrian area

Walk-about in the New Town of Saint Ouen

The current re-development, however, is controlled more centrally. Its objective is  to provide accommodation to cater for Paris' hosting the Olympics in 2024. Emphasis has moved from providing a good place for people to live and hang out, to provision of maximum number of bed-spaces at high speed and minimum cost. The new architecture is bland (like new Ballymun) and lacks friendly open spaces.

3. Visit the Vegetable Market

It is more than a vegetable market. It provides also for fresh and cured meat and fresh fish in wonderful variety. Take care to note what days it is on. (Sorry, if you don't hurry up, it will be gone to make way for the Olympic Village. Sic Tempora Mutantur. I add the bit of Latin to poke my finger at the  newer generations who have abandoned this as well).

4. And the Puce, or Flea-Market

Les Puces de Saint Ouen

Once upon a time, Saint Ouen was outside the city walls. Paname (i.e., Parizian) Citizens, tired of their old things, dumped them outside the walls. The hard-pressed locals took up the dumped items and re-cycled them. In time the flea-market of Saint Ouen grew to be the biggest flea-market in the world, open three days every week-end. Everything and anything is found here.

Coming home to Saint Ouen from a jazz club, one night, our talkative and very informative cab-driver told us that Americans are crazy. They come over to Paris and buy fire-places in the flea market, and carry these heavy things all the way across the ocean. "Do they not have any rocks in America? Is nobody in America able to make a fire-place?"

As to the word "Paname" that I use here, it apparently comes from an old Parisian slang word "Panama" meaning "Extremely Large." At one time, wealthy people in Paris wore very large hats, which earned them the nick-name "Panames." So, there you have it. And the Panama Canal is, actually, a very large canal, is it not? Nowadays, if you live in the outer suburbs of Paris, and they ask where you are from, you can't say "Paris," because that refers only to the inner city; so you can say "Paname," because that embraces the whole very large conurbation.

To be Continued

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