It’s easy to think of France being stuck in the past on many levels. But there are many ways that it points to the future, too. Anyone feeling like the country is spiraling downward need only make a trip to the REcyclerie, on boulevard Ornano, just outside the Porte de Clignancourt metro station, for a dose of inspiration. In a former train station, with tracks still intact, is a sprawling wonderland dedicated to sustainable living and eco-consciousness. There’s a cafeteria-style restaurant (with indoor and outdoor seating), a small flea market, a cozy library, a kitchen garden, and a studio, equipped with tools, for workshops on making repairs. We have seen such places in many cities around the world—my own hometown of Cincinnati had one that until recently held monthly dances and operated workshops for women on basic plumbing and electric work.
The REcyclerie seems particularly Parisian in its refined touches. It’s less “crunchy hippie” and more “modern bohemian.” Members pay a fee to join, which entitles them to collect eggs from the henhouse on site, and learn skills in the workshops. But the public is invited, too, foremost in the restaurant, which was packed yesterday with what could have doubled as a Benetton ad in terms of wide-ranging demographics.
The menu is vegan, and, as you can see, care is put into the visual appeal of the dishes. In addition to this plate laden with healthy creations (the chilled ratatouille was a standout), you also get a plate of 4 (count ’em) mini desserts! (Brownie, rice pudding, a slice of watermelon and pineapple in a mint sauce.) The meal, at 22 euros, includes coffee and a mystery drink, dark purple and refreshing, that I assume was made from a mix of juices and tea.
The flea market was a bit quelqonque (random) with a handful of artisans selling jewelry and fabric-covered notebooks alongside women with a rack or two of secondhand clothing, When I picked up a bottle of Serge Lutens perfume and smelled it, the woman tending the space said, “40 euros.” I demurred, saying I didn’t have that much to spend. “Fine—35,” she said, rather sharply. I scurried away, laughing at the thought of being given the hard sell at a place whose motto–”Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”– encourages people to consume less.