Triangle de Choisy, Paris

Pauline Chardin

September 06 2015

There are several Asian neighborhoods in Paris, yet most often when people talk about the “quartier chinois” they are referring to the triangle at the southern end of the 13ème arrondissement.

I once lived nearby, a decade ago, when I first came to Paris and I don’t think I had come back since then. It was amusing to confront my memories from before with the reality of today. At the time I hardly had been abroad, and certainly not to Asia, so the place felt incredibly foreign—almost intimidating. I even hear myself saying, afraid of no cliché, that “it was like going to China, it’s not Paris anymore.”Ah, to be young and naive!

When I set out to visit the neighborhood again, camera in hand, I was very much counting on the exoticism I had such a vibrant memory of. I should have known better. A place rarely looks and feels the same after ten years, even less in a city. Therefore, I was in for a surprise, which is always better, isn’t it?

I arrived through the Place d’Italie and the Avenue de Choisy and already things were taking an unexpected turn. I had readied myself for some chaotic, crowded streets, but instead there were leafy alleys, lined with welcoming terraces. I thought to myself that this was ultra-Parisian with a dash of Asia, but certainly not the other way around! As I advanced further and approached the Olympiades area, the streets were became more modern and towers began to appear, some of them quite recent, which lent the neighborhood a surprisingly sleek look.

Admittedly I was here to get my Asian fix, but ended up being offered a Parisian variation instead. To think that I was dreaming of saving a plane ticket…

Pauline Chardin is a French fashion designer and runs The Voyageur. Follow her on Instagram, too.