I’m back from spending a few days in Rouen in northern France. I was there on an interpreting job in June and happened to mention to my client that I’d love to go back and spend some more time discovering the town. Very kindly (and without prompting) he offered to lend me his flat while he was away on holiday with his family. In describing the flat, he mentioned that it is in a "quartier populaire" in the centre. "Populaire" in this context is a false friend. It doesn’t mean that it’s popular, but rather that it is lively, with a multi-racial population who are on the working-class end of the social scale. I’ve been trying to work out what the equivalent would be in English. "Lower-income multicultural urban area" has been suggested, but it’s very administrative, doesn’t quite roll off the tongue and lacks the community aspect that "populaire" definitely has. Any ideas?
Incidentally, I highly recommend Rouen for a nice weekend away. The town is completely steeped in history, with a cathedral dating back to the 11th century,
the Palais de Justice still bearing the marks of the bombs that destroyed a large part of the town during the second world war,
the square where victims of the plague were buried in a mass grave in 1428 and of course the places where Joan of Arc was tortured, judged, burnt and rehabilitated. It isn’t all death and tragedy though; we spent many happy hours admiring attractive streets and beautifully preserved houses as we strolled from crêperies to cafés.