Chef Alexandre Bella Ola Discover Paris!

Rio Dos Camarãos Restaurant

Rio Dos Camarãos is an African restaurant located in the Parisian suburb of Montreuil, about a five-minute walk from the metro station Robespierre.

The interior is simply decorated, but the elements that chef and owner Alessandro Bella Ola and his wife have chosen to embellish the large dining room are unmistakably African. Handsome cloths cover the tables and large and small dolls dressed in colorful cloth are placed throughout the restaurant. Color photographs of Africans hang on the walls.

We were greeted at the door of the restaurant by Chef Bella Ola, who invited us to take a table. There, we studied the menu that listed a wide range of traditional African dishes, including Mafé, Ndolé, and Yassa.

We shared an intriguing starter called Nyam ngond, which is a cake-like preparation of pumpkin seeds. It was presented as a flat disk resting on a mound of julienned carrot, zucchini, and cabbage. Instead of containing crunchy morsels of seeds, it was spongy and it had a flavor slightly reminiscent of fish broth. We later learned that it is a dish generally served as a main course on the day after family celebrations.

For the main course, I decided to try the national dish of Cameroon, called Poulet D. G. I received a sizzling-hot iron plate containing a copious portion of stewed chicken legs, plantains, leeks, and red and green bell peppers. The chicken was tender and juicy and the plantains were just sweet enough to add balance to the spices in the dish. The vegetables added color and texture to this heavenly preparation.

My dining partner settled on Mafé poulet fumé, otherwise known as smoked chicken in peanut sauce. He was presented with a dish containing a mound of fluffy, white rice and a steaming cast-iron pot containing chicken with carrot and cabbage smothered in peanut sauce. The chicken was tender, the vegetables flavorful, and the rich sauce tempting. Simply delicious!

The dessert menu offered some unusual choices. My partner loved the Tatin banane, a large slice of caramelized, upside-down banana pie served with two dollops of whipped cream. It was fashioned after the traditional Tarte des Demoiselles Tatin, a tart that is made with apples. The bananas were dense and chewy and tasted somewhat like the sun-dried bananas that one sometimes finds at specialty stores.

I sprang for Crème brulée au citron vert. It looked like a traditional crème brulée with its burnt-sugar crust, but it had the bright pick-me-up flavor of lime rather than the mellow-me-down flavor of vanilla. I quite enjoyed it.

Rio Dos Camarãos restaurant will celebrate twenty years of existence in November 2014.

Rio Dos Camarãos
55, rue Marceau
93100 Montreuil
Métro station: Robespierre (Line 9)

By Monique Y. Wells
Monique Y. Wells is the co-founder of Discover Paris! and the editor of the free, weekly online publication Paris Insights – the Restaurant Reviews.

The Man Who Records Paris

The Man Who Records Paris

When Briton Des Coulam retired five years ago, he did as most of us would do—he devoted himself to an activity in which he felt most passionate.  What makes him different from most of us is that the activity that he chose is in a little-known field called acoustic ecology. Within this field, he dedicated himself to a specialty called soundscape studies, the recording of sound emitted by a particular environment. The environment that he chose to record was the city of Paris, the setting that he has been living in for the past fifteen years.

Coulam spends about four days a week strolling around Paris listening for sounds to record, particularly those that are representative of the neighborhood in which he finds himself. Although his interest in the different types of sounds that the city produces is broad, he is particularly fascinated by the sounds of the metro. He knows, for example, that the current MF 67 trains on Line 5 have been in service for over forty years and that they are gradually being replaced by a new model, the MF 2000. The new train will forcibly produce a different auditory effect, so Coulam determined that he should record the sounds of the old train before it is taken out of service.  At the Quai de la Rapée station he alternately stood on both platforms to record the sound of the trains’ squeaky wheels as they entered and left the station.  He also recorded the sounds of the trains ascending and descending the helicoidal curve that leads to the Viaduc d’Austerlitz, the bridge that spans the Seine.

Coulam finds the music of street musicians particularly enchanting. Click the following link, and listen to a recording of two jazz guitarists in a bistro on rue de la Roquette:

On March 23 of this year, ten new bells were installed in the towers of Notre Dame Cathedral.  Coulam was there to record the event!

To record the sounds of the city faithfully, Coulam had to learn how to listen acutely, to immerse himself in the sounds, and to be discreet. He learned that if people see him carrying a large, furry microphone and a large sound recorder in an over-the-shoulder bag, they will change their behavior and modify their sounds.

Coulam is gradually passing his sounds to a Paris soundscapes collection in the British Library Sound Archive, in London. During February 15th – 16th, the library hosted a two-day symposium on field recording.  A recording of Coulam’s presentation can be found here:

Des Coulam has a blog and website on which he shares his comments, photographs, and soundscape recordings: His sounds have been broadcast on BBC Worldwide and various radio stations around the world.


Tom Reeves
Discover Paris

The Colonial Palace of the Bois de Vincennes

Palais des Colonies Image courtesy of Discover Paris

Palais des Colonies
Image courtesy of Discover Paris

In 1931, the French government hosted an extraordinary event in Paris called, the International Colonial Exposition. The Exposition featured exhibits and pavilions of eight countries that possessed colonies or protectorates throughout the world, including France, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, the United Kingdom, Holland, Portugal, and the United States.

The expo was held on a 270-acre plot of land lying just outside eastern Paris in the Bois de Vincennes park.

Among the pavilions that were constructed for the exhibition, the Colonial Palace remains intact today. Designed by architect Albert Laprade, its tall, slim columns support an overhang that protects a stone façade sculpted in bas-relief on three sides by artist Alfred Janniot.

Janniot’s sculptures are a remarkable sight. They depict France’s colonial subjects industriously engaged in farming, fishing, hunting, and extracting raw materials from which France profits. On the western side of the façade, workers in Martinique cut sugar cane; on the left-hand side of the southern façade, several workers in Africa harvest palm fruit and peanuts. On the right-hand side of the southern façade, workers in Asia gather rice or tap a rubber tree; and on the eastern side, fishermen in Oceana catch an abundance of fish in their nets.

Within the main auditorium of the palace, large frescos painted by Pierre Ducos de la Haille present a complement to the images depicted on the façade’s stone tapestry. The bas reliefs of the façade portray the material benefits that France reaps from its colonies; whereas, the frescos by Ducos de la Haille portray the multiple benefits that the colonies gain in return. Allegorical figures of Peace, Justice, Liberty, Science, Art, Commerce, Industry, and Work are juxtaposed with images of the colonizers performing good works in the colonies. One fresco portrays colonists caring for the sick, while another shows a clergyman freeing two slaves.

France Offering the Dove of Peace to the Five Continents

France Offering the Dove of Peace to Five Continents
Image courtesy of Discover Paris

The central fresco in the main auditorium is the most telling of the manner in which France wanted to portray itself during the exposition. Entitled France Offering the Dove of Peace to the Five Continents, it depicts a fully-clothed woman holding the hand of a statuesque Europe on her right while extending a dove to a group of naked African women emerging from a jungle on her left. Behind her and to the left are half-nude female Asian figures emerging from another jungle. Below her, to her left and right, recline two nude female figures that represent Oceania and America. Here we see France at the center of the world, distributing the benefits of prosperity and peace to her colonial subjects.

Palais de la Porte Dorée (formerly called Palais des Colonies)
293, avenue Daumesnil
Paris 75012
Métro: Porte Dorée (Line 8)
Tramway: Porte Dorée (Line 3a)

Open Tuesday to Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday until 7:00 p.m.

Access into the entry hall and the main auditorium is free.


Tom Reeves
Discover Paris

Cameroonian Fashion Designer Makes a Splash on Canal Boat Cruise

Cameroonian Fashion Designer Makes a Splash on Canal Boat Cruise

The local tourist bureau of Seine Saint-Denis, a French administrative department that lies just to the north of Paris, is actively promoting numerous artists, musicians, and designers that live and work there. On March 22, 2014, it featured the work of an exceptionally creative fashion designer during a fun-filled boat cruise on the Canal Saint-Denis and the Canal de l’Ourcq.

Lamyne M. hails from Cameroon, where he began his training as a tailor at the age of 13. Particularly mindful of the origin and quality of the fabrics that he uses to create his designs, he constructs fine garments with remnants recuperated from bolts of cloth used by designers such as Yves Saint Laurent and Smalto. He also experiments with new, environmentally-friendly materials such as fabrics made from cactus fiber. His design house is called Wonu An, which means “Be yourself” in Fula (a language of West Africa).

Lamyne with microphone

Lamine M.
© Discover Paris!

Lamyne specializes in men’s fashions though he designs for women, as well. All of his garments are hand-sewn by craftsmen in workshops in Morocco and Cameroon. During his presentation, he proudly announced that hip-hop recording artist Kanye West has purchased his designs.

Everyday people from the town of Saint-Denis were selected as models for the fashion cruise.

Wonu An Designs
© Discover Paris!

Wonu An Designs
© Discover Paris!

Lamyne is collaborating on a fascinating project with Professor Maya Thebault and students from La Source, a vocational high school in the town of Nogent that trains textile professionals.  Together, they are crafting “Giant Robes” three meters (9.8 feet) tall that are based on the designs of gowns worn by French queens and princesses of medieval times.  The recumbent statues of these women are found at the royal necropolis of the Saint-Denis Basilica.

The students have been making careful drawings of the gowns in which the women are dressed. They have selected Holland Wax print fabrics, typical of those used for contemporary African fashions, to create the robes and accompanying accessories.

The giant dresses will be shown in an exceptional exposition at Saint-Denis Basilica in 2015.

Lamyne M.
9, rue Moreau
93200 Saint-Denis
E-mail :

by Monique Y. Wells
Monique Y. Wells is the co-founder of Discover Paris! and the creator of Entrée to Black Paris tours.

Tom Reeves
Discover Paris

Great Black Music Expo in Paris

Mama Africa Room
Image courtesy of Cite de la Musique

Mama Africa Room
Image courtesy of Cité de la Musique

The Great Black Music exposition at the Cité de la Musique in Paris debuted on March 11, 2014. A veritable treasure trove of sights and sounds of music inspired by black cultures, this interactive exposition is one that you will not soon forget!

After purchasing your entry ticket, you must first go to the desk where audio guides (in French and English) are distributed. Without one, you may as well not enter the exhibit space because most of what you’ll find there requires access to recorded information and music.

Adjacent to the desk is a room with many posts, each of which has a flat top on which a short video about a black music legend is projected. Some of the persons featured include Miriam Makeba, Harry Belafonte, James Brown, Nina Simone, and Michael Jackson.

The next room is called Mama Africa, which contains several large video screens that extend around the room like a mural. Two or three video clips about music from different regions of Africa are projected on each screen. One could easily spend an hour in this room alone!

Leaving Mama Africa, you enter a room that displays videos depicting voodoo, santería, candomblé, and other sacred rituals, as well as the types of music associated with them.

The adjacent room contains an illustrated timeline that begins with the construction of the ancient pyramids of Egypt and ends in 2011. The viewer is invited to listen to music that influenced, shaped, or was inspired by the particular historic events mentioned along the timeline.

Each of these rooms is exceptionally rich in content and it would be easy to spend several hours in them. Nevertheless, conserve your strength because you’ve only seen half of the exhibit!

Monique Y. Wells

Tom Reeves
Discover Paris

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