Paris is the kind of place where you can just take the metro to some stop you have never visited before, come up to the street and have an interesting day. Yesterday it was unexpectedly sunny and bright and the fall colors are finally becoming convincing and so we headed for the end of the 8 line Balard.
Close to the station is Parc Andre Citroen, a park built about 20 years ago on the site of the abandoned Citroen automobile manufacturing plant. We had never been in this small corner of Paris before and Paris parks are always a pleasure. Immediately upon entry, we went right into this little alley of trees and niches with comfortable benches. If we had gone left, we would have entered a flat area filled with several children’s playgrounds.
The park is built with lots of levels and spots for people to gather and chat and an enormous variety of interesting trees and shrubs. The pathway we entered upon sits above and crosses over the pathway shown here.
This opens onto the large central field, bordered with a shallow canal that is connected to a fountain system and cascades from the gardens at the edges of the space. The balloon is available for tethered rides and a view of Paris.
At the top of the space is a large paved area with fountains. On the day we were there, very small children were riding down the expanse of pavement on scooters — often with parents set to catch them before they hit the canal.
The park has lots of spaces for people to stretch out in the sun, or sit and talk, or fly kites or watch the kids play. In addition to benches, there were also wood sun beds available for people to grab a few Zs.
The gardens on the edge the main space, are dedicated to various principles and senses and colors. There were still a few flowers in bloom or fruits in evidence. Here is a crab apple. There were roses and also wilderness sections with grasses planted together that are said to respond differently to wind and thus create interesting patterns.
We left the garden and decided since it was so beautiful that we would walk along the Seine up to the Eiffel Tower and take the RER C back to our neighborhood in the 17th. Among our first discoveries was the paddle boat Tennessee — available for party cruises and corporate dinners. (The Mississippi was moored upstream.)
A lot of the waterfront here is industrial. After passing what looked like giant chemical tanks we came to a stretch with a dozen or so cement mixers and a cement mixing facility. Next to this cement factory was a beautiful bridge built in the 19th century with large sculpture symbolizing various elements of Parisian society.
The piers of the bridge are boats and the figure on the left here is the bow of a boat going downstream and represents the City of Paris; the figure on the right, is the stern of a boat going upstream and represents Commerce.
The Javel RER station is one of the last of the old art nouveau stations; I always wonder why they were so anxious to destroy the many very beautiful metro entrances and RER stations designed in this period. There are only a handful left and they are all stunning.
As we continued past the lovely Pont Mirabeau, we spotted an old friend. This quarter life size replica of the Statue of Liberty was put in place on the 100th anniversary of the gift of the statue to the US. It sits at the foot of the manmade Ile aux Cygnes or Island of the Swans. I vaguely knew of the island and the statue but had not known we would be so close this day. We decided to cross over Pont Grenelle to the island.
Here is the obligatory E-W bird picture. There is a lot of varied high rise architecture along the river here on the outskirts. There are limits on height and form in the center parts of the city and skyscrapers have been pushed to the edges since the aesthetic atrocity of Tour Montparnasse reminded Parisians what a beautiful city they have and how easy it would be to louse it up. I did not realize it when I first posted this, but that thing that looks like a modern bell tower is actually the chimney for a huge underground plant that provides heating for a large part of this section of the city.
Signs of fall have been late to come in Paris. Roses are still blooming in Parc Monceau near our apartment and the trees are just turning. Paris doesn’t get the kind of cold snap that inflames New England and perhaps the mix of trees is different, so that fall is a bit more subdued. This was, however, a great day for fall color.
To exit the island, we used the Pont Bir Hakeim named for a great WWII battle. This is a gorgeous bridge with a metro track on the top level and a pedestrian walkway and road for cars on the lower level.
At this little view point there is a perfect spot for the obligatory Christmas card shot. When we were there a group of students were filming a video of themselves introducing their Paris internship to students back home.
One last look downriver and then we headed across to the Quai Branly to get a cup of coffee before heading up to the Tower to catch its first sparkle at 6. We moved off daylight savings time on October 30 and it is dusk at 5:30 and dark at 6.
And at 6 pm, precisely, the first sparkle of the night. Flashing lights don’t photograph well with a little pocket camera — so you will have to take our word for it, that it is a thrill to see. I will admit though, the distant view from our apartment is more exciting when the tower sparkles than it is right there on the spot.
This was a wonderfully pleasant and interesting afternoon stroll. If we had done some homework we might not have missed the church of St. Christopher and one or two interesting architectural details. But there is something pleasing about finding little Easter Eggs on your own. Just coming upon the last of the art nouveau RER stations. Or finding the Ile aux Cygnes serendipitously has a satisfaction that the best laid plans don’t always have.