Recently, I had a lovely five-day-long – mid-August ”weekend” in Paris; which is very unusual, because August in Europe hits the top holiday high, with millions travelling in all directions. In August, all motor-, air-, and sea-ways are stretched to breaking -or sinking- point with sunny resorts flooded by crashing waves of holidaymakers seeking their perceived little piece of paradise.
So, while I usually duck out and away from all the madness, embracing the rare calmness and luxury of a deserted city all to myself, for the second time as far as I can remember (the first was back in 2012), I broke the monotony and took a little trip to Paris. Not far, but 300 km and 1h 40m on a packed highspeed train was the farthest I would go before becoming a very grumpy old lady indeed.
Actually, it proved to be a great idea; while Parisians were busy making their hasty retreat to said paradise, I got to enjoy a view of Paris rarely seen: quiet, peaceful, eerie, gorgeous!
Although I have been to Paris many times, there is something about this city I can’t quite grasp yet; familiar yet strange, friendly yet distant; but always fascinating, like a mysterious creature peeking elegantly behind a multi-layer veil, prompting me to uncover – and discover its charms.
Like when we climbed the stairs of the Viaduct des Arts to the elevated promenade that runs over 4,5 km from the Bastille Opera almost until the Bois de Vincennes to the east; the Promenade Plantée (Planted Promenade) also called Coulée Vert (Green Stream).
Built on the tracks of a disused railway, part of a larger construction that connected Paris with Strasbourg, it was used by freight carriers between 1859 and 1969 then left abandoned for almost twenty years, until plans were laid to convert it into a park. The first part opened in 1989 and the whole route was completed by 1994.
It became the world’s first elevated park and, a few years later, inspired Manhattan’s famous Highline.
The elevated part of the promenade is 1,5 km long, running between the Bastille Opera and Jardin de Reuilly. From there on, it descents to street level, passing successively through an ultra urban office building plaza, some wide, well-lit and frequented tunnels and a nature path, before splitting at the level of Avenue Général Michel Bizot. The trail we took brought us to, yet another, park (Square Charles Péguy) and a community garden, shared by schools and local residents.
All along, the view is nothing less than spectacular:
This is the Police Station of Paris 12th arrondisemment. Designed by architect Manolo Núñez Yanowsky, with copies of Michaelangelo’s “The Dying Slave” sticking out from its top floor, this must be one of the weirdest architecture designs for a police building, in the world!
Walking on Boulevard Soult towards the Bois de Vincennes, an impressive monument preceded by an uncanny street ”installation”:
Sitting on the top end of a square lined with palm trees, the gold statue of La France Colonisatrice, fashioned after the goddess Athena; a monument remaining from the Colonial Exhibition, in 1931.
Paris, 13-18 August 2014
Shared photo credits (Konstantinos & Lia)