Contributing writer Tom Aussems from The Netherlands introduces a new blog series focusing on unique neighborhoods around the world. Each segment of this series highlights an interesting niche of a major city that proves to be amazing and off the beaten track.
The power went out in Paris’ 18th arrondissement. Tucked away in a cobblestoned alleyway, it was quite the adventure to make it back to the room. The run-down hotel showed little aspiration of earning a second star, with its springy bed, stale croissants, and magnificent views of the next-door neighbor’s toilet. However, that particular trip to one of Paris’ shabbiest neighborhoods sparked a desire to absorb local culture and follow paths less traveled. Eating airy sugar-coated crêpes, sipping soda in smoky cafes and strolling Clignancourt’s anonymous streets might not be mentioned in tourist guides, but these experiences prove to be more fulfilling than anything offered in pre-packaged deals. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself staring at real estate pamphlets, daydreaming of becoming part of the neighborhood, rather than merely visiting.
An authentic and vibrant local lifestyle unfolds away from downtown’s silly dance: a bunch of tourists sprinting in the same direction, queuing up for coffee, and taking pictures of street signs. Wandering through these areas, where hop-on-hop-off buses are banned and big retail chains are unwanted, puts travelers in locals’ rather than tourists’ shoes. Captivated by the Eden-like neighborhood atmosphere, travelers create lifetime memories and develop a strong desire to experience a feeling of belonging. Ultimately, that is what makes traveling and discovering new places so rewarding.
This series attempts to focus on neighborhoods that may not appear on a typical tourist’s list, but nonetheless, offer unique local vibes. Due to snobbish traits or indulgent motives, sheer simplicity is often overlooked when travelling. Thankfully, invaluable experiences don’t usually require a fat wallet. Just forget about the nearest cathedral for a second. Take a break and settle down on a bench in the shade of a hidden parklet with a locally brewed tallboy. Throw away the travel book and rely on your senses to lead your way to neighborhood gems, completely off the beaten track.