A plethora of readers have written in asking TBE for an insiders’ guide to Paris. They’ve inspired us to write this quick travel guide, as part of TBE’s “Omnibus Summer Guide #4080.”
Everyone knows the old saw that being featured in the New York Times is the death knell for any hotspot. But old saws are often dull. Thus it was without trepidation that TBE stepped into Itinéraires, a very fine restaurant at 5 Rue de Pontoise in the Latin Quarter. The pork belly was one of the most delicious things TBE’s correspondent has ever eaten. Though we didn’t speak with the chef, his wife, who runs the dining room, was awesome. Also, it’s an amazing value at just 36 or 37 Euros for the set menu.
Sad but true, there is no indoor public smoking in Paris. Not only that, but cigarettes are expensive! Parisians and intrepid visitors know the best place in Paris to buy cigarettes is the Barbès-Rochechouart metro stop (Lines 2 and 4), where Moroccans and possibly Algerians sell counterfeit cigarettes for about half the price of your local Tabac, though with a rather limited selection, comprising Marlboro Reds and Lights. Barbès is also located just one stop away from Gare du Nord train station, making it easy to grab a pack or two before stepping onto the London-bound EuroStar or some other train.
Paris in August is overrun by tourists, mostly American. The vast majority follow the same tourist itinerary, and end up with the same pictures of the same places. Few, however, have yet laid eyes on the Bucket O’ Blood, a newish attraction that could close any day, located in Belleville, a quaint yet chic neighborhood in the 11tharrondissement. TBE correspondents visited the bucket, as locals refer to it, several times during our recent visit.
What makes it so fascinating is that no one knows the origins of the controversial bucket. During one visit, at least six members of the Paris police stood across the street from the bucket eyeing it. Channeling the Beatles, they eventually decided to let it be, a decision that secretly cheered the heart of TBE. We caught up with two local gadflies, N”P”A and RJ, who agreed to be identified only by their initials because they were not cleared to speak on the record, arguing about whether the same blood had been in the bucket all along, or whether it was refilled on a weekly basis or even whether it followed a strange and no doubt occult schedule all its own.
The bucket also begs the question of why someone would deposit a Bucket O’ Blood in the middle of a busy urban thoroughfare? No one, least of all the cops, seemed to know for sure, but theories abounded. Some thought it was a plot by upstart Chinese or Vietnamese butchers in the area hoping to frame halal and/or kosher butchers located in the area. Others were convinced it was the doing of outsiders, possibly connected to Jean-Marie Le Pen or Brigitte Bardot, intent on besmirching the good name of Belleville’s large immigrant population. Still others thought it was conceptual art, reordering urban space while simultaneously forcing the viewer to confront her own preconceptions about modernity, spatial reasoning and her relationship to her own blood and buckets of it she might happen upon whilst flaneuring about in Paris.
Whether or not it started its life as an art project, as an inspiration for other artists the Bucket O’ Blood has been an unqualified success. According to a highly uninformed TBE source, R. Imagination, Kanye West visited the bucket while in town for the Paris fashion shows. According to some accounts, West, along with Young Jeezy, wrote the song “Amazing” about the experience.
Other, less known but nonetheless intriguing artists have also flocked to the Bucket O’ Blood. Here TBE presents a high-quality reproduction of one such work, “Bucket O’ Blood (Top View)” by Amant Deseau, theenfant terrible of the Paris art scene.
Getting There: Disembark at the Belleville metro station (Lines 2 and 11) and walk west to Rue du Faubourg du Temple. From the Faubourg take your first left, Rue de la Présentation. The Bucket O’ Blood will be on your immediate right, in front of a scooter parking area.