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July 4, 2011

2

A Street Market in the Butte-Aux-Cailles

by soundlandscapes

IT WAS ONE OF THOSE days when I set off without a plan. I left home equipped to record anything and everything that crossed my path. I took the Metro and followed my nose.

Eventually I found myself in the Butte-aux-Cailles in the 13th arrondissement where I found a street market in full flow. I love street markets, especially when I discover them by accident and this one didn’t disappoint.

Occupying the space between the rue Butte-aux-Cailles and the rue des Cinq-Diamants, this market was very busy and hustling and bustling.

Named after Pierre Cailles, who bought a vineyard here in 1543, the Butte-aux-Cailles has deep roots. The river Bièvre once cut through here in spectacular fashion until it was engineered underground and out of sight. On this sixty-metre hill, windmills were once to be found. By the time the Butte-aux-Cailles became part of the City of Paris in 1860, shoemakers, ragmen, laundrywomen and many others in search of work and a home lived here.

Street Market in the Butte-Aux-Cailles:

Although now gentrified and a ‘trendy’ place to live, the Butte-aux-Cailles still clings to its working-class roots. The workers here fought in support of the Paris Commune in 1871 and today, the headquarters of the “Amis de la Commune de Paris 1871”, the oldest workers organisation in France, still exists in the rue des Cinq-Diaments.

In a way, this market reflected those roots.  There was nothing expensive on sale, just ordinary things looking for a new home. The clothes stalls and the bookstalls seemed to be especially popular but almost everything else was attracting interest.  For those with things to sell but without a stall, improvisation was the key.

And, late in the evening as the light was beginning to fade, the hunt for last minute bargains was still going on.

Paris has many places like the Butte-aux-Cailles, places that have adapted to the modern world but are still in touch with their roots.  It’s one of the things that makes this city so endlessly fascinating.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jul 5 2011

    Yep, it’s a nice place, and all the better for being slightly hidden.

    It’s an interesting place to choose to record sounds as well, because there is currently a big conflict between the local residents and the bar owners who give the area some of its identity, and of course the subject of discussion is noise levels!

    Reply
    • Jul 5 2011

      Thanks Adam.
      Quite apart from the ethical question of creating the noise under discussion, the location itself doesn’t help. The narrow streets and relatively high facades cause the sounds to resonate and thus seem louder. This is particularly noticeable at the junction of rue de la Buttes aux Cailles and rue des Cinq-Diaments where there are two, maybe three, cafés close together. When they are busy the typical café sounds spill out into the street and become something hard to ignore. I thought the effect so unusual that when I was there I actually recorded the sounds for my archive. You get a similar effect further down the rue des Cinq-Diaments where there are several restaurants close together. I’m not at all surprised the natives are restless!

      Reply

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