Promenade Plantee — Turning Discarded Public Space into a Pleasant Place for Parisians

Parisians have a knack for finding niches and corners all over the city to turn into small oases; I have never been in a city in which it is so easy to find a pleasant place to stroll or sit or seek respite from the hot city streets.  Nor have I ever been in a place so in love with flowers; they routinely replant beds in the parks as one flower fades and it is the season for new plants to bloom.

The Promenade Plantee which stretches from the Bastille to the edges of the city turns an old abandoned elevated train track into a verdant  space that fills about 3 miles with walkways, gardens and benches. The space under the Promenade is filled with shops for artists and artisans and it is called the Viaduct des Arts in the first blocks.

The entrance is near Opera Bastille

and the path begins with a walkway lined with bushes

and flowers.

All along the path nearby apartment buildings look down on the gardens.

The pathway varies with arbors and other architectural detail and there are benches and squares in which to  eat lunch or hang with friends.

Our stroll was in early afternoon with the sun high in the sky and so we had some trouble finding a shady bench; most of the benches were in the sun and the handful that were in the shade were occupied with people also looking for a cool place to eat. So we spotted a lavender lined pool that had not yet been filled with water for the season and converted its wall into a shady bench for lunch.

While the lavender was not in bloom, it smelled wonderful in the heat and other plants were in full flower.

(stop for insertion of obligatory E-W bird picture)  We shared some of our baguette with this wood pigeon which is a common and beautiful bird in Paris competing with ordinary pigeons for crumbs in town squares.  We thought they were called wood doves and had a higher regard for them before we discovered they were ‘just pigeons’.

At about the halfway mark the path threads between buildings and into an area that has been terraced with plants.

And then it crosses over Parc Reuilly.  The park is a local hangout for sunbathers and has arbors for relaxing and reading as well as flower gardens, playgrounds and a grotto and pool.

On the far side of this park the path goes to ground and we walked for a stretch through local streets.

As we moved along the urban ground stretch of the Promenade moving towards a tunnel that would deliver us  into the woods we came across half a dozen kids having a grand time with water bottles.

They managed to thoroughly soak each other while having a great time without managing to get the old man passing by or the American tourist with the camera — the glories of the telefoto lens.This tunnel (Ed, Ed don’t move towards the light) takes us from the street path back into a wooded trail, but not entirely successful attempts have also been made to turn it into a grotto.

There are waterfalls created along the pathway but I am afraid the effect sort of misses. You do have to give them credit for creativity and effort.

Once through, the character of the path changes from a garden to a woods

although there are many wildflowers along the way including this patch of buttercups

and this wild rose.

The Promenade is in the midst of office buildings and apartments in a bustling part of the city, far from tourist crowds and high above the ground for much of its length.  The Parisians have taken an ugly piece of junk and transformed it into a pleasant spot for average citizens to enjoy day in and day out — another Oasis accessible to all.

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