Tag Archives: Paris Parks

Paris Wanderlust: So Many Parks . . .

So Many Parks . . .

Square Roger Stéphane, 7 Rue Juliette Récamier (7e)

The urban transformation of Paris during the second half of the 19th century was visionary and egalitarian in its treatment of parks. Napoleon III directed green spaces to be incorporated into every neighbourhood of Paris, even as the city expanded to twice its size due to the annexation of suburbs:

Do not miss an opportunity to build, in all the arrondissements of Paris, the greatest possible number of squares to offer Parisians, as has been done in London, places for relaxation and recreation for all families and all children, rich and poor.

Haussmann describing the instructions of Napoleon III on creating parks

The Littlest Park in Paris: Jardin Alice Saunier-Seïté

Inevitably, Paris has its smallest public park. It features its own little insect hotel.

8-12 Rue Visconti (6e)

Square d’Alleray-Labrouste-Saint Amand

Visiting this little park with the long name feels like entering a public living space within the city of Paris. The al fresco apartment offers a threshold, rooms, doorways, furniture, plumbing, and windows through which one can peer, becoming a voyeur within the rooms of the public apartment.

The interior spaces of Square d’Alleray-Labrouste-Saint Amand recall Riéti’s description of street art as democratic at heart, “paintings in the background of this common apartment, made for everyone, for anyone.” If the city is for Riéti a “common apartment,” this park invites a visit to a home whose rooms are delimited but not private. One strolls through both a living room and a commons.

90 Rue d’Alleray (15e)

Jardin d’Alleray-Procession

79 Rue d’Alleray (15e)

Jardin Juan Miró

Paris’ avant-garde park.

40 Rue Gandon (13e)

Below, the path in the form of train tracks evokes Petite Ceinture, the defunct railway that encircles Paris. That railway is now being developed as a series of parks.

Jardin de la Dalle d’Ivry

The amphitheatre with potted-plant spectators.

9 rue de la Pointe-d’Ivry (13e)

Place de Furstemberg

Lovely, tranquil Place de Furstemberg is surrounded by 18th-century buildings, including the last residence of Eugène Delacroix (now a museum dedicated to the painter’s life and work).

Rue de Furstemberg (6e)

The place is home to four pawlonia trees with big floppy leaves in the shape of hearts.

Square Henri Galli

Below: the base of one of the eight towers of the Bastille, the fortress-prison destroyed during the French Revolution

9 Boulevard Henri IV (4e)

About a century later, the tower was rediscovered and excavated during the construction of a metro line. The tower’s base now resides in nearby Square Henri Galli, where it offers a secluded spot for youth to chill.

Parks for Play

Jardin d’Immeuble Choisy-Caillaux
8 Rue Philibert Lucot (13e)
Square des Chamaillards
55 Rue du Château des Rentiers (13e)
Léon Cladel Skateboard Park
Rue Léon Cladel (2e)

Next: So Many More Parks . . .

Camille Martin

Paris Wanderlust: Jardin du Luxembourg

Jardin du Luxembourg

I know I’ve walked in the rain through Jardin du Luxembourg, but I can’t remember.

The octagonal pond

I never tire of watching children push their rented sailboats into the wind with a stick. They follow the journey of their boats as they sail across the octagonal pond, and then rush over to wherever it lands to give it another strategic shove. Fortunately, the children never tire of their sport.

Below, a boy’s sailboat bears Spain’s country abbreviation and flag colours.

Nothing digital or battery-operated for rent here:

The ogre of the Medici Fountain

The quiet, shady grotto of the Medici Fountain invites relaxation with a bag of macarons.

I like to know something of the history of a place. However, digging into the Medici Fountain’s complicated chronology of construction, ruin, and layers of renovations, doesn’t offer as many rewards as pulling the thread of the insanely jealous cyclops clad in bronze patina at the far end of the grotto.

The giant green cyclops looms jealously over Galatea (the river nymph whom he loves) and Acis (her mortal lover). The two lovers are rendered sensually in a white marble embrace.

Auguste Ottin, Polyphemus Surprising Acis and Galatea (1886)

Briefly: Galatea spurns the cyclops, who in a rage hurls a chunk of mountain at the fleeing Acis, killing him. But Acis gets the last laugh: Galatea transforms him into an immortal river god, who proceeds to split the colossal rock that killed him and to flow forth eternally as a mountain spring.

In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, this cyclops is a complicated monster. He boasts to Galatea that he owns herds of sheep whose mothers nurture their “well-warmed lambs” with “bulging udders.” Yet he himself neglects to tend his animals. He claims to love Galatea, extolling her virtues to the skies. At the same time, he despises her for not returning his love and calls her every name in the book.

The Greek gods, all too human.

The storied beehives of Luxembourg Gardens

One of these days, I’ll be at the right place at the right time to buy a jar of honey produced at the apiary of Jardin du Luxembourg.

Surprise movie filming in Jardin du Luxembourg

I was at the right place at the right time.

Sculptures of the Jardin du Luxembourg

Queens of France and Celebrated Women

Around the main gardens and the octagonal pond stand twenty statues of celebrated women (royalty, legends, muses). The statue of Marguerite de Navarre portrays the very image of thought.

Joseph Stanislas Lescorné, Marguerite de Navarre (1492-1549). Completed 1848.

She and her King-of-France brother supported artists, writers, and intellectuals. They also hosted a salon called “The New Parnassus.” Marguerite de Navarre herself was a writer of remarkable poetry and fiction.

In short, she was a key player in ushering in the French Renaissance.

Fountain-Cenotaph for Eugène Delacroix

Jules Dalou, cenotaph for Eugène Delacroix (bronze and marble) (1890)

To the lower right, Apollo applauds as the allegorical figures of Time and Glory swoop up to a bust of Delacroix to deliver palm fronds and a laurel wreath.

Monument to Paul Verlaine

Auguste de Niederhausern-Rodo, Paul Verlaine (1911)

Charles Baudelaire

Baudelaire, memorialized in stone etched with an excerpt from his poem “Les Phares” (“The Beacons”):

Pierre Fix-Masseau, Charles Baudelaire

George Sand

George Sand (a.k.a. Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin) wearing her fem attire:

François-Léon Sicard, George Sand (marble) (1904)

The Poet

Ossip Zadkine, Le Poète / Hommage à Paul Éluard (1954)

Leconte de Lisle

Leconte de Lisle, a French poet born on the island of Réunion, receives a prominent cenotaph in the form of an angel carrying a bust of the leader of the Parnassian school of poetry.

Denys Puech, Leconte de Lisle

Gabriel Vicaire (a.k.a. “Adoré Floupette”)

Under the campy pseudonym “Adoré Floupette,” Gabriel Vicaire collaborated with a fellow poet to publish Les Déliquescences (1885), literary satires of the excesses of symbolist and decadent poetry.

Jean-Antoine Injalbert, Gabriel Vicaire

Aside: Sixty-odd years later, these two rapscallions inspired the Australian hoaxers who conjured up the fictitious life and works of Ern Malley.

Liberty Enlightening the World

Smaller models of New York Harbor’s Statue of Liberty keep popping up in Paris. Below: a copy of the bronze model that Auguste Bartholdi created while he was constructing the colossal statue:

Broken link of slavery: Le cri, l’écrit

Bronze sculpture commemorating the abolition of slave trade and slavery:

Fabrice Hybert, Le cri, l’écrit (2007)

The Effort

Pierre Roche, L’Effort or Hercules Diverting the Alpheus River through the Rocks (1898), sculpted in a lead alloy

Le Triomphe de Silène

Below, the boisterous tangle of arms and legs culminates in the flabby, naked, and sloshed Silène, foster father of Dionysus. Silène seems to be the only one carousing — the others struggle to keep his chaotic limbs astride his donkey, and get trampled in the process. Even babies crawl dangerously underfoot in this ludicrous orgy.

Sculptor: Jules Dalou

Note the smart kid feeding the donkey an apple:

The Mouth of Truth

According to an ancient Roman legend, the mouth of Truth will snap shut on the hand of a liar.

Jules Blanchard, La Bocca della Verita (marble)

The Mask Vendor

At the base of the bronze statue are masks of illustrious French creative types: Corot, Dumas, Berlioz, Carpeaux, Faure, Delacroix, Balzac, and Barbey d’Aurevilly. In his left hand, the seller advertises a mask of Victor Hugo.

Zacharie Astruc, Le Marchand des Masques (1883)

The Greek Actor

A young Greek actor rehearses his role, script in hand, his mask cavalierly pushed up so he can read his lines.

Arthur Bourgeois, L’Acteur Grec (1868)

The blue bike

The impeccably manicured gardens

View from Tour Montparnasse:

Next: From Horse Slaughterhouse to Parc Georges-Brassens

Camille Martin

Paris Wanderlust: From Horse Slaughterhouse to Parc Georges-Brassens

From Horse Slaughterhouse to Parc Georges-Brassens

Parc Georges-Brassens is dedicated to the singer-songwriter, who lived nearby. The archway at the entrance announces the site’s former function as a slaughterhouse and meat market:

Parc Georges-Brassens; opened in 1984 (15e)

The meat- and fish-processing complex operated for about 80 years from the 1890s until it closed in 1979.

As architects designed a park on the site, they preserved some of the features of the slaughterhouse, such as the gateway above. The iron-framed market stalls built during the 1890s were also salvaged:

These must have seemed to Parisians worth saving, especially after the debacle of the 1971 destruction of Victor Baltard’s pavilions at Les Halles.

To their credit, the park’s architects also rescued the clock tower and belfry, part of the old auction market:

View from the belfry:

The sculpture below pays homage to the workers, this one shouldering a slab of meat:

Another sculpture memorializes those in the meat industry who lost their lives in World War I:

Below, a water feature in Parc Georges-Brassens. Maybe this underground fountain relates to blood drainage from the slaughterhouse. Or maybe it’s just a water feature.


Terraced artificial rocks for children to clamber on, or for adults to sit and chat.

A public theater in the south-east corner of the park:

1889 sculpture of a donkey pulling a cart (not sure why it’s in the park).

At the main entrance to the park are sculptures of two alpha bulls by 19th-century animalier Isidore Bonheur.

Next: Sculpture Park on the Seine

Camille Martin

Paris Wanderlust: Sculpture Garden on the Seine

Sculpture Garden on the Seine

Jardin Tino-Rossi is home to the Open Air Sculpture Museum, which turns a perfectly nice stroll along the Seine into an enlightened reverie.

Can not even Paris make creepy appear charming?

Next: A Park atop a Train Station

Camille Martin

Paris Wanderlust: A Park atop a Train Station

A Park atop a Train Station

If you have time to kill before catching your train at Gare Montparnasse, Jardin Atlantique provides a peaceful respite from the hurry-scurry of a major train hub. You don’t even have to cross a street to get there — Jardin Atlantique lies directly above the maze of corridors and platforms of Gare Montparnasse.

Below, an aerial view of the park from the Observation Deck of the adjacent Tour Montparnasse, with train tracks trailing to the south. The west side of the park features tennis courts and table tennis, while the paths of the east side connect themed garden “rooms.”

Jardin Atlantique, Place des Cinq Martyrs du Lycée Buffon (15e)

Jardin Atlantique, surrounded on three sides by prosaic office buildings, might not look like much from above. However, a stroll around the park reveals a surprising variety of trails, plants, and sculptural walls. Below, a boardwalk passes through the Room of Waving Grasses:

Salle des plants ondoyantes

A relatively new addition to Paris’ green spaces, Jardin Atlantique was created in 1994.

An elevated boardwalk:

The park commemorates the historic role of Gare Montparnasse in connecting Paris with the northwest coast of France. Below, the wavy blue fence and pine trees evoke the coast of Brittany.

The lamp posts along the sunning deck suggest the masts of a ship.

A sculptural wall in the Room of Blues and Mauves:

Salle des bleus et mauves

The circular Room of Silence:

Salle du silence

A pool reflects the natural surroundings of the park. It also provides a watery window into a corridor where travelers pulling luggage navigate the limbo of the train station.

Ping pong tables and tennis courts along the western side.

A fountain sculpture in the center of the park:

Jean-Max Llorca, Fontaine des Hesperides

A viewing platform (in case you don’t have time for the Observation Deck at the top of Tour Montparnasse):

There’s more to explore in Jardin Atlantique. Hopefully I’ll be in Paris again, with time to kill waiting for a train . . .

Next: Fences & Benches

Camille Martin

Paris Wanderlust: Fences & Benches

Fences & Benches

Paris outdoes even herself in transforming mundane street and park furniture into vehicles of elevated consciousness. In Jardin Joan-Miró, ordinary park benches metamorphose into enigmatic sculptures that are also familiar and useful.

Jardin Joan-Miró (13e)

Ditto the undulating layers of this sidewalk bench:

Benches in the form of open books invite a meta-reading experience:

Square Gabriel-Pierné, 5 Rue de Seine (5e)

Fences also have captured the imagination of artists, as in the spectacular Birds of Passage gracing a vocational high school. It was created by teachers and their students, and inspired by the lyrics of a song by Georges Brassens.

Les Oiseaux de Passage, Lycée Professionnel Chennevière Malézieux, 33 Avenue Ledru-Rollin (12e)

Bas-reliefs of celebrated persons who lived in the Grands-Moulins neighbourhood, such as Louise Bourgeois and Olivier Messiaen, enlighten an otherwise nondescript fence at Diderot University:

Rue en-Faces (13e)
Signed bas-relief of French composer Olivier Messiaen

Below, the angles of the fence echo the geometrical theme of the Tour Triangle complex beyond (under construction):

1 Place de la Porte de Versailles (15e)

Tour Triangle is a pyramid-shaped skyscraper to be built at the southern border of the City of Paris. The triangular structure in the distance (above) isn’t that tower (as I first thought), but rather a monumental canopy at the entrance to a pavilion. The Tour Triangle itself hadn’t yet risen as of 2019. More about the enormous and controversial undertaking of Tour Triangle in a later post.

While we’re at Tour Triangle, here’s some edgy seating on the grounds:

Eye-catching bridge railing at Jardin Joan-Miró:

40 Rue Gandon (13e)

Below, I’m reposting two wavy-line fences of Jardin Atlantique, the park above Gare Montparnasse. They seem to epitomize Paris’ talent for creating public spaces that are stylistically contemporary but that also memorialize the past. The waves and pine trees evoke the scenery of Brittany, which was historically connected to Paris by a railway leading to Gare Montparnasse.

Jardin Atlantique, Place des Cinq Martyrs du Lycée Buffon (13e)

“Scribbled grass” fence at Les Halles:


Below, a lovely low fence at Jardin de la Place Souham. Like a shadow lantern, the fence’s perforations create meditative patterns on the stone walkway, as do the tall backlit grasses.


Mock log railings add counterfeit rusticity to Parc Montsouris:

2 Rue Gazan (14e)

I’ll end this post with an unassuming apartment complex that has been transformed by park benches and greenery into an inviting place to call home.

Next: Hillside Parks

Camille Martin

Paris Wanderlust: Hillside Parks

Hillside Parks

I love opportunities for an elevated view of Paris, which reinforces in my brain the location of landmarks and major routes. I wasn’t blessed with a reliable sense of direction, and the streets of Paris seem like a confusing tangle of starburst intersections and roundabouts that set my mental compass spinning out of control.

For sheer height and panoramic sweep, few vantage points can beat the 56th-floor Observation Deck of Tour Montparnasse. And the views have the merit of not including the tower itself . . .

view towards Jardin du Luxembourg

But for the sheer pleasure of climbing to the top in the open air, you need a belvedere on a hill.

Parc de Belleville

One of my favourite places in the neighbourhood of Belleville is the park designed and built in 1988 on a hill. At the top is a viewing platform with a charming mosaic map of landmarks.

. . . not to mention views worthy of the pleasant climb.

Sunning decks and a wading pool — for me, the very image of summer in Paris.

Parc des Buttes-Chaumont

Sylvain Kinsburger, Le Gouffre or Le Grimpeur (1933), Parc des Buttes-Chaumont

Just north of Parc de Bellville is the hillside Parc des Buttes-Chaumont. Whereas the former is modern, the latter is very 19th century, designed by Adolphe Alphand, a prominent landscape gardener for Haussmann’s creation of parks throughout Paris.

In the Temple de la Sibylle, perched atop a craggy outcropping on an island, is enshrined the Romantic picturesque — a quality that would have appealed to Parisians of the late 19th century. Sibyl, the female prophet of ancient Greece, was the oracle to which one would travel to hear her tell the future, even if, as in Oedipus Rex, it didn’t do any good to know it.

But Alphand’s appeal to the sublime in his design for the park belies the land’s chequered past. For five-and-a-half centuries, until 1760, the bodies of executed persons were displayed at the top of the hill. What’s more, the park became a dumping ground for everything from garbage to sewage to animal carcasses from slaughterhouses. Pretty revolting material from which to hatch a charming reverie.

Perhaps the Temple de la Sibylle (seen in the distance below) symbolized a purification of the place through the sacred temple devoted to the future.

A suspension bridge designed by no less than Gustave Eiffel leads to the island belvedere.

The Temple de la Sibylle offers phenomenal views of Montmartre and Sacré-Cœur.

Parc Kellermann

Parc Kellermann was born of the 1937 Paris Exposition. The primary pavilions were at the Place du Trocadéro, but the future Parc Kellerman also boasted several. Some features from 1937 still exist in the park.

At the entrance is a set of “boulders on sticks”–more properly known as Rocks in the Sky by Didier Marcel. In the background is the 1937 Exposition-era art moderne shelter built of concrete and bricks.

The shelter is decorated with plaques of athletes in bas-relief from the 1937 Exposition, in the style of the period:

A formal garden . . .

. . . leads to a parapet featuring a waterfall down a steep wall, and a bucolic view beyond.

The scene from the parapet is a bit easier on the eye than the crumbling and discoloured waterfall, which hasn’t aged well since 1937.

Parc Kellermann’s “functional faucets” cascade could use a re-imagining. Or at least a cleaning. Or is the discoloration part of its charm?

An aside about some 1930s Parisian sculptures

Garden of the Monument to French Mothers

Adjacent to Parc Kellermann is a Stalinesque monument to French mothers, who doubtless deserve better.

Jardin du Monument aux Mères Françaises. 12 Rue Keufer (13e)

This low point of socialist realism is from the same period as the 1937 Paris Exposition. Compare the monument to the colossal waterfall at Parc Kellermann—both created in the style of art disenfranchised. The inscription glorifies the self-sacrifice and deprivation of mothers in bearing patriotic sons who will serve la patrie.

Below: A panoramic photo of the monument, in case you wish to see the adorants on either side:

Place Hubert Monmarché

Memorial to the War Dead (1934) is from the same general period and style as the Monument to French Mothers: symmetrical, allegorical, austere.

Charles Yrondi, Memorial to War Dead (1934), Place Hubert Monmarché (15e)

In the center of the monument: a poilu (affectionate nickname for World War I infantrymen). To the lower left, aristocrats from l’ancient regime, and above them, Revolutionary soldiers. To the right: a grieving mother and child.

Next: Parks Hugging Gothic Churches

Camille Martin

Paris Wanderlust: Parks Hugging Gothic Churches

Parks Hugging Gothic Churches

Two parks at Église Saint-Germain-des-Prés

Saint-Germain-des-Prés is one of the oldest churches in Paris. Its medieval Romanesque tower, dating from 1000, is the oldest structure of that church.

On the grounds surrounding this church are two parks with treasures of their own.

Gothic Ruins and a Picasso: Square Laurent Prache

There’s something compelling and mysterious about ruins, like these fragments of Gothic tracery and arches in the gardens of Square Laurent Prache:

These fragments were salvaged from the destroyed abbey adjacent to Église Saint-Germain-des-Prés. During the French Revolution, the abbey was appropriated, and the monks expelled or executed. The abbey was repurposed as a factory for saltpetre, an ingredient in gunpowder. When a fire broke out, the explosion destroyed the abbey. Today, parts of the monk’s former residence rise from the garden bed next to the church.

The park is also home to Picasso’s Dora, in the likeness of his companion. Picasso dedicated the sculpture to poet Guillaume Apollinaire, who had died of influenza during the 1918 pandemic, complicated by a head wound he received as an infantry officer during World War I.

For the love of ceramics: Square Félix Desruelles

The other park adjacent to the ancient church, Square Félix Desruelles, holds two treasures relating to the art of ceramics.

Sèvres showcase at the 1900 Universal Expo

The monumental and colourful ceramic wall on the edge of the park celebrates Sèvres, the national ceramics industry. Created by Sèvres for the 1900 Paris Expo, it decorated the facade of the Palais des Manufactures Nationales. When that structure was demolished, the Sèvres monument was salvaged and moved to the Square Félix Desruelles.

The detail below shows the monument’s range of colours and the depth created by the friezes and the recessed semicircle.

Statue of Bernard Palissy, polymath and artist of ceramic critters

The bronze statue below memorializes Bernard Palissy, 16th-century polymath and ceramics artist. Palissy wears a potter’s apron over his gentleman’s doublet and puffed trunk hose:

Palissy created ornate oval platters in a rustic style, decorated with life-like creatures such as lizards, moths, frogs, snakes, and crustaceans. He often took casts of dead animals to sculpt them more precisely. Below, Palissy holds one of his ceramic platters with a snake at the center:

Just as saints are depicted with “attributes” associated with their lives, Palissy is surrounded by objects symbolizing his artistry as well as his vast and varied knowledge.

Behind Palissy’s right foot lies a kiln. Next to his left foot are crystals, indicating his interest in geology, and a large mollusk shell, representing his knowledge of natural history.

The kicker about the shell? It refers to Palissy’s innovative and science-based thinking about the origin of fossils.

Palissy bows his head in sadness. An outspoken Huguenot (French Protestant), he died miserably, imprisoned in the Bastille for his religious beliefs.

Square René Viviani
(next to Église St-Julien-le-Pauvre)

This hospitable square is adjacent to Église St-Julien-le-Pauvre, the 12th-century Gothic church built around the same time as the Cathedral of Notre Dame.

Sculptor: Georges Jeanclos, 25 Quai de Montebello (5e)

Viviani Fountain, full of tenderness and sadness, speaks to the sculptor’s artistic rendering of his pain as a Holocaust survivor into figures of exquisite, transcendent emotion.

Georges Jeanclos, Fontaine St-Julien (1995)

At the entrance to a shady slice of heaven with park benches stand ancient stones piled up like cairns:

These venerable old stones were removed from Notre Dame during 19th-century renovations by Viollet-le-Duc.

Next door are the gardens of Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre, where you can stroll by a 12th-century stone well with a wooden wheel that has aged to the color of the grey stones.

The well is accessible from both sides of its jagged wall, which appears to have been sledgehammered. French Revolution?

The locust tree below may not look like much, but it’s the oldest tree in Paris. It was planted in 1601 by the gardener of Henri IV. Its hoary old branches are propped up by planks, but its leaves appear as young as spring shoots. On display here is Paris’ veneration of arbres remarquables.

Square André-Lefèvre
(next to Église Saint-Severin)

Square Saint-Médard
(next to Église Saint-Médard)

Next: New Parks on Old Rails

Camille Martin

Paris Wanderlust: New Parks on Old Rails

New Parks on Old Rails

The reclaiming of obsolete train tracks is increasingly popular in European and North American cities. Paris has repurposed two defunct railways to create long strips of urban parks. Both lines were constructed in the mid-19th century, during the Second Empire.

Promenade Plantée

The Promenade Plantée follows three miles of a mid-19th century railway that connected Place de la Bastille with suburbs to the east. The Promenade ends near the Boulevard Périphérique.

Twin bowers at the western entrance:

Where tracks once lay . . .

An elevated portion of the promenade, seen from the grassy Jardin de Reuilly:

Faceoff of Haussmannian facades, viewed from the Promenade:

A common and curious result of urban railways: buildings whose cleanly sliced walls hug the tracks, allowing as much square footage as possible.

Along the promenade, a time-travel tableau — a ramshackle old cart and a few rotting baskets artfully scattered — is exhibited en plein Paris.

In case you need a rest during your urban stroll, a park-within-a-park lies adjacent to the Promenade, complete with nude female sculpture, Wallace Fountain, and pigeon:

Platform from which to view a labyrinth:

Sundial with instructions and the following inscription:

Le soleil luit pour tous (The sun shines for everyone)

The Promenade Plantée is lower than street level in sections. Below, it passes through a tunnel:

Inside the tunnel, a decorative plaque of a mystical cat:

A spiral staircase topped with a futuristic umbrella (mushroom?) punctuates the eastern end of the Promenade Plantée:

La Petite Ceinture

The long-inoperable railway of La Petite Ceinture (the little belt) traces a broad circle around the City of Paris. In its heyday, it carried travelers and merchandise. It also served the Citroën factories (now Parc Citroën) and the slaughterhouses of Vaugirard (now Parc Georges-Brassens).

Since 2007, stretches are being developed as parks, and the landscaping prioritizes the preservation of the railway’s heritage as well as the biodiversity of the corridor that had for decades gone to seed.

Some rails of the defunct La Petite Ceinture remain in place.

The entrance to a developed portion of La Petite Ceinture, accessed from Rue Brancion:

At the top of the stairs is perhaps an old railway station, fallen into disrepair.

Like Promenade Plantée, the Petite Ceinture has its “sliced buildings”:

Next: Vertical Gardens

Camille Martin

Paris Wanderlust: Vertical Gardens

Vertical Gardens

How does Paris render the blank slate of a wall more inviting? By either painting a mural or planting a garden on the vertical space.

An urban oasis

Below is the Oasis of Aboukir Street, brainchild of botanist Patrick Blanc:

L’Oasis d’Aboukir (2e)

This popular experiment in the greening of Paris is also a model of biodiversity, with 237 species of plants.

The staircase garden of Place Benjamin Fondane:

Escalier végétalisé of Place Benjamin Fondane (5e)

In a niche in the staircase, a rare type of Wallace Fountain is affixed to the wall instead of free-standing:

Vertical garden seen from Promenade Plantée

Next: Gardens for Poets

Camille Martin

Paris Wanderlust: Gardens for Poets

Gardens for Poets

Place Benjamin Fondane

Across the street from Paris’ Roman amphitheatre is a place devoted to Benjamin Fondane, Romanian-French poet and philosopher who was murdered at Auschwitz at the age of 45.

plaque: “Place Benjamin Fondane, 1898-1944, poet and philosopher deported and murdered at Auschwitz”

Fondane lived a precarious existence in France, trying to conceal his Jewish heritage from Nazi occupiers and their French collaborators. He was arrested in 1944, sent to the Drancy transit camp near Paris, and from there to Auschwitz-Birkenau.

An excerpt from Fondane’s “Exodus”:

Whether they burn us up or nail us up
whether our luck turns bad or good,
Why do you think we should give a damn?
The only true songs are human ones

from L’Exode, tr. Pierre L’Abée

Place Benjamin Fondane is, to my mind, one of the most moving spaces in Paris:

Place Fondane, with a view toward Rue Monge (5e)

The paving stones define a profoundly spare place: a sunken circle at an impasse. Inside that recessed circle is a welling up, at once a refusal to sink as well as a persistence of memory.

A park for a Polish exile: Square Cyprian Norwid

Cyprian Norwid, a Late-Romantic poet, was part of the Great Emigration of thousands of Polish nationals exiled during political upheavals. Many, like Norwid and Chopin, took up residence in Paris.

What’s not to love about a park dedicated to a poet? . . .

Square des Poètes

. . . Or one dedicated to hundreds of poets?

Scores of plaques, each inscribed with a few lines by a French poet, are affixed to boulders along the park’s paths.

Arthur Rimbaud

Below: Rimbaud recalls his carefree youth of summer, closing his eyes and smelling linden flowers and wine. I can’t think of this poem without hearing Léo Ferré singing it.

François Villon

In his Testament, Villon regrets his wasted youth.

Something like:

Alas, if only I had studied
during my foolish youth
and followed the straight and narrow,
I’d now have a house with a soft bed.

André Chenier

Chenier was guillotined at the age of 31, a victim of The Terror. The lines below speak of Auteuil, a neighbourhood where the literati of Paris gathered at their beloved watering holes, united in their poetic rivalry. I hope Chenier is still there.

Robert Desnos

Desnos, an active member of the French Resistance, was arrested by the Gestapo in 1944. After being sent to three different Nazi concentration camps, he ended up in Theresienstadt, a camp in occupied Czechoslovakia. He died of typhoid at age 44, a month after the camp was liberated.

The excerpt below, from his poem “Tomorrow,” speaks of hope in a suspended state of despair, as if one were waiting for dawn in perpetual darkness.

Now, from the depths of night, we still bear witness
to the splendor of the day and all its moments.
If we don’t sleep, it’s to watch for dawn,
which will prove that we’re finally living in the present.

Next: Land End’s Moments

Camille Martin

Paris Wanderlust: Land’s End Moments

Land’s End Moments

Swan Island

Île aux Cygnes is a long, skinny slip of land in the middle of the Seine. The artificial island was engineered in 1827 to stabilize the old wooden Pont de Grenelle, which was threatened by river currents.

Oddly, the innocuous-sounding Swan Island is associated with historical moments of despotism, revolution, and colonialism.

First, the despotism of Louis XIV. Swan Island was named after an older Swan Island upstream (now merged with the Left Bank). That earlier island became home to the Sun King’s prized Danish swans, along with an army of swan keepers, catchers, and doctors. The newer Swan Island appropriated the name of the older one, thus retaining the memory of the absolute monarch’s fowl whims.

Below: a sleeping swan along the Seine, its beak nestled in its wing. Possibly a royal descendant.

Swan Island is also linked with the overthrow of monarchy by both the American and French Revolutions: a monumental Statue of Liberty raises her torch at the foot of the island. For the centennial of the American Declaration of Independence in 1876, the people of France proposed to the United States the creation of the colossal copper Statue of Liberty by French sculptor Bartholdi. The statue thus celebrates the alliance between the two countries in liberating the American colonies from the royal British yoke.

After the Statue of Liberty was installed on Ellis Island, the 1889 centennial of the French Revolution rolled around. The American expat community in Paris returned the compliment by presenting their adopted city with a quarter-size replica of Bartholdi’s statue, which found a fortuitous home at the downstream end of Swan Island.

View from Pont Mirabeau

A spectacular (if gaudy) spot for night cruises to pause . . .

Lastly, colonialism. At the 1937 Paris Expo, Swan Island hosted pavilions that were devoted to France’s colonial empire: Tunisia, Lebanon, Madagascar, Corsica, French Equatorial Africa, Martinique, Indochina, and on and on. Thus did Swan Island become associated with the subjugation of peoples by the very nation that had earlier thrown off its own shackles.

Today, Île aux Cygnes invites a quiet stroll, the Seine always in view on either side. Not surprisingly, it’s a favoured haunt of lovers.

Apropos of Liberty Enlightening the World . . .

The Flame of Liberty, at the northern end of Pont de l’Alma:

La Flamme de la Liberté, Place Diana, Pont de l’Alma (16e)


The Flame of Liberty. An exact replica of the Statue of Liberty’s flame offered to the people of France by donors throughout the world as a symbol of the Franco-American friendship. On the occasion of the centennial of the International Herald Tribune. Paris 1887-1987.

The tips of Île de la Cité & Île St-Louis

In contrast to Swan Island’s climactic finale of the Statue of Liberty, the tips of Île de la Cité and Île St-Louis quietly understate their farthest reaches.

Île St-Louis

Square Barye: a place to observe the waters of the Seine irrevocably split.

Île de la Cité

A willow at the end of Square du Vert-Gallant offers shade and privacy as you approach the point where the waters of the Seine merge again:

Next: What Is the Job of a Cemetery Cat?

Camille Martin