Photo: Leora Wien.
Don’t let the famous gardens of Paris’s past overshadow its contemporary rivals. The city is home to renowned green design that has been setting trends around the world.
La Promenade Plantée, in the 12th Arrondissement, is the world’s first elevated garden path. It was created on the site of 19th-century train tracks leading from Bastille eastward 2.48 miles (4.5 km) toward the Bois de Vincennes. Service along the line was discontinued in 1969. But in 1990 the derelict eyesore was converted into an attractive urban refuge.
My Sunday goal: exercise and quality time with Mother Nature. The Promenade Plantée is the perfect place to enjoy such a loisir, or place of recreation.
My walk starts behind l’Opéra Bastille, at avenue Daumesnil. The garden path is situated above the former train viaduct. Now called Le Viaduc des Arts, it is home to artisan studios featuring fine-art restoration, paper making, porcelain, interior design and fashion.
As I walk, I pass under arched trellises blooming with roses. Later, I inhale serene scents of lavender bordering a series of shallow reflecting pools. Joggers run past in packs. Cliques of older ladies sit close together on benches and catch up on the day’s ragot, or gossip. Lovers are left alone with a bench all to themselves. Bamboo towers above. In some places city rooftops are completely blocked out. Even Parisians enjoy a break from their beautiful city.
At rue Erard, I take the staircase down to street level. Communing with nature gives me a Zen vibe as I step out from the gardens spilling over into the urban landscape. Promenade Plantée is a success story in the revitalization of former industrial spaces. It was the precedent for New York City’s popular High Line. Both urban idylls are catalysts for greening Philadelphia’s Reading Viaduct, Chicago’s Bloomingdale Trail and Rotterdam’s Hofplein station.
Hungry, I head to Chez Jean, a new one-stop shop on Place du Colonel Bourgoin. It’s a café, grocery store, florist and newsstand rolled into one (a first in Paris). They’re open on Sunday afternoons and into the evening (when all of Paris is closed). Hot food items are available to go (j’adore!). I order their menu of a sandwich, dessert and drink, all for 6.90 euros. I also buy toothpaste, check email on the free Wi-Fi and scan the newspaper headlines.
I return to the path, heading east to the Promenade’s Jardin de Reuilly. The park fans out into a lawn surrounded by discreet benches under a lilac arbor, a bamboo labyrinth and a shady river grotto. I wish myself bon appétit.
After lunch and a nap, I continue to an unusual offshoot of the Promenade Plantée, by the Square Péguy. A stretch of land is being left entirely to its natural devices to become meadowlands. Around the bend in the trail, a citywide project to provide garden plots on a lottery-based system is under way. Five gardens exist so far. It’s only the beginning.
153, rue de Charenton, in the 12th.
For a guide to great spots where you can enjoy Parisian scenery, read our post Special Places to Take It All In. To read about day and weekend trips, click here.