It is difficult to be exact about what I call my neighborhood. Historically, it was one of those villages annexed to Paris in the nineteenth century. Its heart would be a bit further uphill. Geographically, it extends itself across a different city district. Common sense would say that it spreads around the metro station close to my home. In fact, it follows the places where I run my errands, or where I wander after taking care some daily problem, or where we go for a drink on the evenings. Some places downstairs do not belong to it, whereas others, many metro stations away, are close to its heart.

In practice most of this area is organized like a small village. It has one main street and two smaller streets crossing it: one of them streets ends at the cemetery, the other goes uphill and continues further to the outskirts of town. Both of these smaller streets are much older than the main one, which is actually a big boulevard. It is proudly bordered by end of nineteenth century buildings of six or seven stores, busy with traffic, shops and cafés.

Because it connects big squares full of symbolic significance and it is named after a respected free-thinker, people love to use it for demonstrations. Traffic is actually blocked every other Saturday afternoon. Huge parades of political parties and well-meaniing organizations, some quite exotic, fill it with slogans and flags for one cause or another, making an afternoon nap impossible. Sometimes, because there are so few Saturdays, the city hall allows two or three small demonstrations in a row. If one is lucky, it is possible in this case to spot a jovial parade, coming at the very end of demonstrations, requesting the end of demonstrations or asking the government for good weather.

Whenever the boulevard has a weekend free in its civic schedule, it is not unusual that the city hall allows a flee market to install itself on the sidewalks for a weekend or two. We know then that we either escape on Friday evenings or get stuck in the lively mess of old furniture, collectible postcards and provincial food until Monday morning.

I was told by a taxi driver that this boulevard is the one with the most traffic lights in town. I don't know if this is correct, but it should not be far off. Even on a bicycle, one stops every three or four minutes at one of them. If one adds up the traffic lights, the traffic jams, the flee markets, the demonstrations, it should not come as a surprised that once you moved in, it is quite difficult to get out of the area.

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