Tucked away in Paris's largely working-class 19th arrondissement is a little oasis of pedestrian, cobblestone lanes bordered by lovely row houses mostly hidden behind walls, gates and lush greenery. If you didn't know, you wouldn't think this tranquil area is part of Paris. In fact, my guess is that many Parisians haven't spent much if any time here. The name of the neighborhood comes from an Algerian town and a battle which took place nearby during the French conquest of Algeria.
The area was built on top of old gypsum quarries which were mined from the Middle Ages to the mid-19th century. There is a theory that the area was also known as the carrière d’Amérique (American quarry) because much of the gypsum was sold and shipped to the United States, although residents dispute its validity. Today there's a street, rue des Carrières-d'Amérique, in the northern part of the district.
I began my visit by taking the metro from central Paris and getting off at the Danube stop. This little afterthought of a metro line is known as 7 bis.
Exit the Danube metro station and walk south on rue de la Fraternité.
This lovely little roundabout will greet you when you exit the Danube station.
Turn around and walk down rue de la Fraternité to either rue de la Liberté or rue de l"Egalité which will take you to the main street, rue de la Mouzaïa.
You'll immediately notice that these houses are different from those in the more central part of Paris. Because they were built on a quarry, the ground won't support the massive multi-story Haussmannian-style buildings common to much of the rest of Paris. The resulting two to three-story homes give this area a unique town-like atmosphere.
The rue de la Mouzaïa is a quiet, tree-lined street.
Sprouting from each side of the rue de la Mouzaïa are "villas". Normally we think of a villa as a large, stately mansion, but in this case villa refers to the short, mostly cul-de-sac pedestrian lanes on each side of the main street. Spend part of a sunny afternoon walking through them and you'll want to come back.
Some like these have thick green awnings.
These homes were originally built to house the quarry workers, the first appearing in the late 19th century. Single family homes are rare in Paris and these have the added benefit of front gardens and courtyards. It's a treat to occasionally be able to peek through the dense greenery and metal gates to see how the homeowners have (usually artistically) created their personal space.
Each villa is unique in its greenery and flowers.
Even the house numbers are artistic!
A few of the street, or "villa" signs.
More of the lovely rue de la Mouzaïa.
Take your time and don't rush through; you'll be glad you did.
➜ Top Tips
Chances are that you'll have to transfer a couple of times if you take the metro to this area. Don't let that discourage you.
The spring is a perfect time to enjoy the flowers and greenery.
While the rue de la Mouzaïa is level, be prepared for terrain that's a bit hilly on the villas.
After visiting La Mouzaïa, enjoy strolling through les Buttes-Chaumont, the beautiful park nearby.