Saturday, 8 December 2012
You’re fed up with the Dordogne, you’ve had enough of the Riviera and you’re bored with Parisian monuments.

Now you’re being invited to enliven your stay in France with a visit to one of its infamous suburbs — such as La Plaine Saint-Denis outside Paris.

Here, you can browse in boutiques such as the Bangla Store, which sells everything from peanuts to plungers, sample the local gastronomy in The Hot Chicken Shop, or take a leisurely stroll beside the A1 motorway.

The district is being promoted as a tourist destination by officials keen to develop economic activity in rundown urban zones while showing that there is more to French suburbs than riots, drugs and crime.

The local tourist office, for instance, has begun guided tours of attractions that include immigrant communities, building sites and an electricity station. It markets the package as “Sweet Suburb”. Similar initiatives are springing up throughout France, many driven by inhabitants who no longer wish to be depicted in the mainstream media as violent and lawless.

Rose Hubon, 66, is one of a growing number of “greeters” — the concept originated in New York –— who volunteer to show visitors around their towns, in her case Saint-Ouen north of Paris.

“People don’t only want to see the Eiffel Tower and Montmartre. Sometimes they want to see something different and I’m happy to show them where I live: the markets, the shops, the history,” she said.

Mrs Hubon speaks only French and Creole but says that other members of the greeter network are fluent in English and delighted to guide British holidaymakers around.
“I’m convinced that suburban tourism will develop in the coming years,” said Marie-Pierre Agnès, a member of Accueil Banlieues (Suburban Welcome), an association that offers bed and breakfast and tours in areas usually shunned by visitors.

“The centre of Paris is saturated and if officials want to keep developing tourism, they’re going to have to move out here,” she said. Her goal, however, is not so much to boost tourist revenue as to break down the barrier between the white population that monopolises city centres and rural areas, and the immigrant communities living in the suburbs. “We want to show that the suburbs are not only about bars, fights and burning cars,” she said.

In a country that has traditionally rejected multiculturalism, her promotion of ethnic diversity strikes a rebellious note. “My six-year-old son goes to a school that has 45 different nationalities and it’s great for him,” she said.

Yet there are signs that France is starting to question long-standing prejudices, with films such as Les Intouchables, which portrays the friendship between a black youth and a handicapped, wealthy white man, proving a notable success. Standing on the pavement outside O’Discount Store in La Plaine Saint-Denis, Daoma Mamadou, 28, whose parents arrived in France from the Ivory Coast, invited the British to visit his town.
“This is a place where you’ve got every possible culture — African, Asian everything — and where everyone will talk to you. We’re not like the Parisians, who never talk to anyone. We chat and we joke all the time. There is harmony here.”

That might be a slight exaggeration — the encounter down a nearby side street between three men dismantling a red Renault Clio and a police officer who suspected that the vehicle was stolen did not seem harmonious.

But Rabby Saidi, 22, who was having a bite to eat in The Chicken Shop (a rival to The Hot Chicken Shop), insisted that France’s suburbs were less violent than they were reputed to be. “Listen chief,” he said, adopting the form of address he uses for everyone, “people who talk to us respectfully will have no problems. Look at us. We’re talking together and I haven’t mugged you.”

Not everyone, however, is convinced that tourism will take off in places such as this. Laurent Paris, 29, who has a hamburger stall in La Plaine Saint-Denis, said: “I certainly wouldn’t advise anyone to visit this place. There’s nothing to see. You don’t go to New York and spend your time in Harlem.”
Source: Times (£)


Hamid said...

If I want to indulge in French culture - I would have thought France would be the best place to go.

If I want to see Asians - I'll go to Asia.
If I want to see Africans - I'll go to Africa . If I want to see Muslims and what not to do to a country - I'll go to the Middle East.

The Fog Horn said...

I lived in a muslim ghetto in Leicester and had pooh, washing up liquid, eggs and wee put through my letterbox, bangs on the door at night, eggs thrown at my windows, verbal sexual insults shouted at by the crowd in the Islamic video rental shop, stalked by men at night. It was awful and I feared for my life, even having to wear a hooded coat to protect myself better.

I have spent twenty years trying to make people believe me.

I have recently discovered that the Abrahamic religions were based on an imaginery volcano god...Yahweh, which means there is neither a god nor an allah.

I have spent the last two or three years researching this theory and collating my findings. I am now spending my time trying to get people to listen.

I believe this theory is our only hope. Please help me to pass it on. I do believe it is possible to make the biggest and strongest building callapse by pulling just one brick...and this is that brick.

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