Belleville’s Portes Ouvertes

Any guesses as to where this photo was taken?

If you said in the middle of Paris’ 20th arrondissement, gosh you’re good!

I, for one, was surprised (and delighted!) to come upon this patch of woods behind a very unassuming door in the city.

These sorts of serendipitous discoveries were numerous this weekend, as Belleville’s annual Portes Ouvertes took place over 4 days. Nearly 130 artists’ ateliers were open to the public.

I have to admit, finding interesting passageways and cute spaces was as much, if not more, my goal than looking at art as I set out. I just love stumbling into different nooks and crannies of the city, discovering spaces that are often hidden from sight.

Cutie-patootie courtyard

I started out on Rue Denoyez, which is definitely not a secret. It’s a popular street for graffiti artists and it changes by the day. It’s always a good bet if you need a riot of color.

I then went wandering at random. There was a list of all the different artists showing work, but I liked the idea of just popping in and out as the spirit moved me. Much of the arty scenery was simply found by walking around the back streets.

My favorite discovery was a little area around Rue des Cascades and Rue de Savies. It felt like its own private neighborhood – and the neighbors made us feel that, too! Many of the people on the street looked at us like we didn’t belong there and a woman yelled at us not to take a picture of her bar.

We went in to places, anyway. It was “portes ouvertes” after all!

Can't begin to describe how, ahem, interesting this studio was

On the lookout for those who don’t belong!

Rue des Cascades/Rue de Savies

Trying for an arty shot to go with the event:

Pouty Sion in Paris painters' forest

And me in my more natural pose (Can’t. Contain. Laughter.):

A great little stroll!

If you’re in Paris, there’s still time to visit. Today is the last day – Portes Ouvertes from 2 – 9 PM.

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19 Responses to “Belleville’s Portes Ouvertes”


  1. 1 SAS Fiction Girl May 30, 2011 at 9:03 pm

    Sounds like a great day out! The best kind of fun is the type you find by accident.
    I love discovering the romantic little nooks and crannies in the city. Lately, I’ve stumbled on some in Montreal and Siracusa (Sicily.) Always good to have a camera at those times.
    I’m sorry to hear you got fussed at by that bar owner. You never can tell about people. When my group was walking through Siracusa, I spied a dour-looking old woman on her balcony. I waved up at her and yelled “Salve” (pronounce sal-vay, which is a basic greeting), not really thinking I would get a response. She broke into a huge grin and waved back. It’s for those people that I will keep being polite and friendly.

    • 2 paris (im)perfect May 30, 2011 at 10:58 pm

      Hi Jen. What a great story: dour lady turned grinner. Indeed – that’s why I keep smiling and being friendly, too. You never can tell. How cool to be wandering around Sicily! I really want to go there. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. 3 Marge AAnderson May 31, 2011 at 1:45 am

    Sure enjoyed your latest post. What a lovely day you must have had, discovering new and hidden away places in the city as well as checking out the various artist’s work!
    Noticed you are dressed in warm clothes. We have been freezing here in Minneapolis until today when it went from high 50′s this morning to a blistering 90 this afternoon. Our pool opened 3 days ago but no one ventured in it until today. The heaters have been warming the water but the air was too cold when you got out of the pool but not this afternoon. I felt like I was in heaven and stayed there for several hours. Hopefully we’ve seen the end of this crazy ether pattern!
    When are you coming back to the states for your graduation? Imagine it’s pretty soon!

    • 4 paris (im)perfect May 31, 2011 at 2:17 pm

      Hi Nana. Yeah, it was a great evening wandering and finding cool new places. It’s been pretty warm here, but that evening it was cold again. I hear you about changing weather patterns. (Climate change is a real thing).

      I’m heading to the States in just a few weeks – can’t wait!

  3. 5 Paris Karin (an alien parisienne) May 31, 2011 at 9:15 am

    Hello, Sion!

    Walking around Belleville with my visiting cousin on Saturday, I saw posters for this event and open doorways leading to ateliers. I was not 100% certain about what was going on, though, and so I am really appreciative to know what was happening! Next year, I’ll be prepared and know that it is okay to step on inside and see what people are working on.

    One thing I really appreciate about being in Paris is the commitment to the arts and people’s participation in cultural events. This is another good example of that.

    Thanks for sharing the secret hideaways you discovered, too! I’m with you: the excitement of happening on serendipitous coolness is so much fun. :)

    • 6 paris (im)perfect May 31, 2011 at 2:19 pm

      Hey Karin. Yeah, definitely check it out next year! Also, at any time, if the door is open, just walk on in. That’s what I do anyway :)

      I agree about the commitment to the arts and culture. Speaking of, I need to go see Monumenta – was very inspired after reading your blog post about it.

  4. 7 Kristin Bair O'Keeffe May 31, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    Love these nooks & crannies, Sion! Finding such spots was one of my fav things to do in China.

  5. 9 Sweet Freak May 31, 2011 at 5:12 pm

    And tonight, in Hell’s Kitchen, there’s a free screening of “The Triplets of Belleville”, one of my faves!

  6. 11 Carolyn Solares May 31, 2011 at 8:22 pm

    What a great photo essay, Sion. Gosh, I really want to go back to Paris. Love that I get to see and and taste it through you. Merci!

  7. 13 Kind Reader June 1, 2011 at 6:33 pm

    Wow. This was really great. While reading, I could imagine taking such a walk in Paris, too. And I found some great photography following the ‘Portes Ouvertes’ link you included so I can keep *exploring* the artwork. :)

  8. 15 Andi June 6, 2011 at 10:34 pm

    What an amazing experience! I have never heard of this event and will make sure to note it. I am with you, I would be into the ateliers and their surroundings, art would be a 2nd or 3rd priority! Thanks for contributing to French Frolick!

    • 16 paris (im)perfect June 8, 2011 at 2:09 pm

      Thanks so much for inviting me to contribute to French Frolick! Such a great idea. And yes, *definitely* put the event on your calendar. Portes Ouvertes are always a great chance to do some snooping – I love it!


  1. 1 Expat Sat: Nooks & Crannies | Writerhead Trackback on June 25, 2011 at 6:12 am
  2. 2 Walk and Invent Your Life (Portes Ouvertes) « paris (im)perfect Trackback on May 10, 2012 at 1:30 am
  3. 3 Tour de France: Paris, 20ème – Paris (Im)Perfect | Prêt à Voyager Trackback on January 19, 2013 at 4:31 pm

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paris (im)perfect?

Sion Dayson is paris (im)perfect. Writer, dreamer, I moved to France on – no exaggerating – a romantic whim. As you can imagine, a lot can go wrong (and very right!) with such a (non)plan. These are the (im)perfect stories that result.

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