Trip to an abandoned railway line in Paris

If you’ve visited Paris as many times as I have you’ll have checked off all the essential tourist hubs and now want to experience the nitty-gritty of the real Paris.

Far from the tour buses that run through Place de la Concorde and the groups taking selfies on Île de la Cité, the outskirts of Paris are home to cultural charms that are worth every minute of the metro ride. Or, if you’re up for it, a journey along a different set of tracks.

The defunct 19th century railway La Petite Ceinture (little belt) once encircled Paris, linking the city’s margins. The 30km (19 miles) line was constructed between 1851 and 1867, but fell into disuse in the 1930s, after which its walls were tagged with graffiti, and rare plants and animals moved into the abandoned space. Today, the city is working to repurpose La Petite Ceinture as a biodiverse pathway across the capital.

The railway’s first refurbished section, located in the upscale 16th arrondissement, was opened to pedestrians in 2007. Here at the most western edge of Paris is the sprawling Bois de Boulogne, home to the Longchamp Racetrack, the Fondation Louis Vuitton and the Jardin d’Acclimatation. On the park’s border, the Musée Marmottan Monet was once the hunting lodge of the Duc de Valmy, and now houses the world’s foremost collection of Claude Monet paintings. The painter’s second son, Michel Monet, bequeathed his entire collection to the museum in 1966.

Musée Marmottan Monet - Paris tourist office

In the adjacent 15th arrondissement, a one and a half kilometre (one mile) stretch of La Petite Ceinture is also open to the public. Beginning at Rue Olivier de Serres, the tracks run up against Parc André Citroën. On the other side of the park sits La Javelle, a popular hangout and open-air concert space on the western bank of the Seine.

Inauguration de la Porte Asiatique du 13ème ! - Chinatown Paris

Follow La Petite Ceinture farther south east to 13th arrondissement, and there’s a reconstructed part of the railway that connects the Jardin Charles Trenet to Le Jardin du Moulin de la Pointe. This neighbourhood is known as the Chinatown of Paris – the Quartier Asiatique – and showcases an eclectic mix of newly constructed high-rises and traditional Haussmann-style architecture. With Chinese grocery shops, restaurants and businesses, the atmosphere here is unlike anywhere else in the rest of the city.

Bois de Vincennes - Paris tourist office

In the neighbouring 12th arrondissement, La Petite Ceinture is raised above ground level, similar to The Highline in New York City, offering expansive views of the surrounding quartier. A small park with community gardens has been constructed around the tracks and merges into Square Charles-Péguy. You can look out across the Bois de Vincennes, Paris’s largest park which stretches for almost 2,500 acres and encapsulates the Parc Floral de Paris and the Parc Zoologique de Paris.

La librairie "L'eau et les rêves" : la tête dans les nuages et les pieds dans l'eau - PlumCulture

From here, La Petite Ceinture cuts through a large park that runs up to the border of 19th arrondissement and right across the Villette Canal, where one of the most unusual bookshops in Paris can be found floating in the water. Anchored towards the canal’s middle section, L’Eau et les Rêves stocks a collection of marine-inspired literature, fiction, nonfiction and guidebooks in an old barge.

Album Photos Les photos du Hasard Ludique

Now trace the tracks of La Petite Ceinture all the way to 18th arrondissement, where there are further rehabilitated sections of railway, but also refurbished train stations, such as Le Hasard Ludique. Originally the Gare Saint-Ouen, the building was a train station from 1863 until 1934. It has gone through several reincarnations since then, and is now a restaurant, concert venue and arts space. During the autumn, spring and summer months, the tracks here are open to the public.

La REcyclerie | Urbansider

Farther down the road, housed in another abandoned station, is La REcyclerie, an eatery dedicated to “upcycling” – in addition to its café and bar space, it offers educational classes, talks and film screenings.

Les antiquaires des puces de Saint-Ouen auront leur magasin en ligne | Les Echos

This now leads to Paris’s famed Boulevard Péripherique, the road that marks the city’s borders. Cross at Porte de Clignancourt to reach the Marché aux Puces de Saint Ouen, Paris’ largest flea market.This sprawling mishmash of open-air and covered shops has been drawing antiques collectors for centuries. It’s ideal for picking up one-of-a-kind mementos, window shopping or just people-watching.

The iconic Wallace fountains in Paris - French Moments

The most rewarding part of wandering around Paris is that you never quite know what you might come across along Paris’s labyrinthine streets. It could be a rare book from a bouquiniste (bookstall), the spotting of a particularly chic Parisienne or perhaps stumbling upon one of only four Wallace drinking fountains in the entire city that aren’t painted green. It’s what makes Paris endlessly enthralling to its residents, and what makes all visitors fall in love with it.

Musical Monday: Cindie Lauper

This week, it’s the turn of American singer, songwriter, actress, and activist Cyndi Lauper whose career has spanned over 40 years – a bit like mine!

Her album She’s So Unusual (1983) was the first debut album by a female artist to achieve four top-five hits on the Billboard Hot 100— Girls Just Want to Have Fun (featured below),  Time After Time, She Bop and All Through the Night —and earned Lauper the Best New Artist award at the 1985 Grammy Awards. Her success continued with the soundtrack for the motion picture The Goonies and her second record True Colors(1986). This album included the number one single True Colors and Change of Heart, which peaked at number three. In 1989, she had a hit with I Drove All Night (2nd video).

Since 1983, Lauper has released eleven studio albums and participated in many other projects. In 2010, Memphis Blues became Billboard‘s most successful blues album of the year, remaining at number one on the Billboard Blues Albums chart for thirteen consecutive weeks. In 2013, she won the Tony Award for best original score for composing the Broadway musical Kinky Boots, making her the first woman to win the category by herself. The musical was awarded five other Tonys including Tony Award for Best New Musical. In 2014, Lauper was awarded the Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album for the cast recording. In 2016, the West End production won Best New Musical at the Olivier Awards.

Lauper has sold over 50 million records worldwide and has won loads of awards. An inductee into both the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Lauper is one of the few singers to win three of the four major American entertainment awards.  

Lauper is known for her distinctive image, featuring a variety of hair colours and eccentric clothing, and for her powerful and distinctive four-octave singing range. She has been celebrated for her humanitarian work, particularly as an advocate for LGBT rights in the United States. Her charitable efforts were acknowledged in 2013 when she was invited as a special guest to attend U.S. President Barack Obama’s second-term inauguration.


French Fancies: Cristaseya

We’re staying partly with fashion in Paris this week but today’s brand doesn’t have the same accessibility of those of the last few weeks.

Rue Ambroise Thomas is not just a quiet Parisian dead-end street. Up on the first floor of number 7, unmarked from the outside, devotees of crisp cotton-poplin shirts and cashmere sweaters find a cozy mecca. Decorated with abstract ceramics and pared-down wooden furnishings, the atelier of the decade-old label Cristaseya feels more like an apartment than a store or studio.

Cristina Casini started Cristaseya a decade ago with a partner, Keiko Seya, who has since left the business. They were both stylists without any design experience, but they were bored by the never-ending stream of new trends accelerated by social media and fast fashion. They decided to create a label together that had a commitment to quality materials and shapes that could last for years.

Since 2013, Cristaseya has been quietly and carefully turning out roomy wardrobe staples like languid suits, shirt dresses and sharp trench coats. Its pieces arrive not in the form of seasonal collections but in twice-yearly “editions. The label offers more than ready-to-wear too, including jewellry, sculptures and home goods, often made in collaboration with artisans from Greece and Italy.

cristaseya, edition 18, ss 2022
cristaseya, edition 18, ss 2022

The brand evokes a feeling of intimacy, owing in large part to the tight-knit family behind it. Founder Casini and her husband, photographer Andrea Spotorno, lead it together, and the editions are inspired by their Italian culture and their travels. The label produces much of its knitwear at Casini’s mother’s factory, Maglierie Cristina, in the Italian province of Reggio Emilia, and its fabrics are often custom.

As such, the label has cultivated a loyal following, and thanks to its genderless shapes, the collection is for anyone with the confidence to wear oversize layers and the curiosity to seek out something made with an almost obsessive consideration. It makes sense, then, that Cristaseya’s fans are often creative people too. But, IMHO, the best thing about the brand is that you simply can’t get it everywhere, nor will you see it tagged frequently on Instagram.

cristaseya left edition 10, ss 2018 right edition 14, ss 2020

Cristaseya has remained under the radar, kind of like one of those hidden-gem restaurants that you don’t want to tell anyone about for fear that it gets too popular and the magic disappears. That’s how Casini likes it. The former stylist, who moved to Paris from Milan in 2005, is press shy and disinterested in the conventions of the fashion world.
She claims:

The aim has never been and will never be to make more and more money. Instead, it’s to get to a safe financial point where we can all have a nice life and continue working with passion, traveling, going to the restaurants that we like, and having fun—me and all my team.

What that means is Cristaseya has remained small and rare. While the label is no longer quite the “little secret” it was, the ethos remains.

From the beginning, seasonality was downplayed for editions that last and together make the ideal wardrobe for the Cristaseya woman. Initially, every prior edition was available alongside the current release. Now, pieces from previous editions can be special ordered, and the brand typically tweaks and rereleases its core pieces in every collection.

The current edition, the label’s 18th, includes many Cristaseya favourites, including oversize cotton shirts, caftans, pyjama sets, bright knits and Japanese washi-paper suits.

cristaseya, left edition 10, ss 2018 right edition 15, fw 20202021

cristaseya left edition 13 bless cristaseya jacket, fw 20192020 right edition 08, ss 2017

The quality of everything is impeccable, but there’s still such a strong narrative. The label’s pieces may appear simple, but they always have a modern twist in the silhouette, cut, or colour.

Cristaseya launched its e-commerce site just five years ago, and it has an unusual strategy: The website “opens” for business for only a few weeks at a time when editions land or when pieces from past editions are available. This guarded approach and small scale differentiate it from other designer labels with a similar commitment to quality and timelessness.

All images courtesy of Cristaseya

Silent Sunday #103

It’s Sunday and my photo is from ma belle France.

The Musette: Olive oil sorbet

In this recipe ingredients that you might traditionally view as savoury shine in such a sweet delicious way. This is a really refreshing dessert that just makes me think of warm days on the Mediterranean. The sorbet is gently flavoured with basil and lemon, and the taste of the olive oil comes through on the finish – so you want to use something high quality with floral or grassy notes.

INGREDIENTS (6 servings)

  • 200g (1 cup) raw cane sugar
  • 240ml (1 cup) filtered water
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 10 fresh basil leaves, gently bruised
  • 1 organic egg white
  • 3 tbsp fresh organic lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon zest
  • 60ml (1/4 cup) extra virgin olive oil

To serve

  • couple fresh basil leaves
  • 250g (2 cups) freshly chopped strawberries
  • 2 tbsp aged balsamic vinegar 


1. Combine the sugar, water, salt and basil in a small sauce pan and place over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring occasionally to help dissolve the sugar. Simmer gently for 2 minutes.

2. Using a slotted spoon, remove the basil from the simple syrup and discard. Whisk the egg white in a medium bowl until frothy, but not stiff. Whisk the hot syrup into the beaten egg white.

3. Now whisk in the lemon juice, zest and olive oil. Switch to a rubber spatula and stir occasionally for 5 minutes or until just warm to the touch. Refrigerate until completely chilled, stirring occasionally. It generally takes about 2 hours.

4. To freeze the sorbet, use a hand held blender or whisk to emulsify the base mixture. When the base looks creamy and smooth, pour it directly into an ice cream maker to freeze.

5. When the mixture is the thickness of a thick milk shake, put it into an airtight container and freeze until ready to serve. Do not over process or the mixture will separate.

Balsamic Strawberry Mascarpone Mousse - Just a Little Bit of Bacon

6.  To serve, scoop the sorbet into a martini glass or similarly sized glass bowl, sprinkle with the berries and drizzle with the balsamic.

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. If you don’t have an ice cream/sorbet maker, pour the whipped mixture into a shallow glass dish that you can place into your freezer evenly for about two hours.

2. At this point the mixture will have started to freeze all around the edges while the middle part is still quite mushy. This is when you take out your trusty fork to break up all the frozen bits into small pieces and mix it all around so that the cold is distributed evenly.

3. The mashed mix goes into the freezer again but this time for 30 minutes. The mixture will start to get more solid overall but again run your fork through it as thoroughly as possible and even it out before you pop it back in for another round of cooling. Make sure you don’t have chunks peeking out, they will freeze ahead and turn into solid blocks of ice.

4. Continue with step two every 30 minutes for another three times. Even though the mixture has spent so much time in the freezer, it should still be malleable. Now put the  the sorbet into the freezer for one last hour, mush and mix, and either serve it or transfer it into a freezer-friendly container until you’re ready to serve.

One from the vaults: Fatally flawed

I don’t write much about cycling anymore, though I still cycle regularly. Sadly, somethings never change….……as I revisit a post from May 2015.



I haven’t written much recently about my close shaves with four-wheeled vehicles.  Largely because I’ve come to appreciate that other road users, and I’m including pedestrians in this sub-set, can be neatly divided into two groups: those that ride a bike and those that don’t. The problems lie with the latter group. Not a day goes by that I narrowly avoid being knocked off my bike by the rash actions of a motorised vehicle or a pedestrian. I largely avoid disaster because I don’t cycle particularly fast, spot danger looming and take evasive action. My average speed in an urban environment hovers around 22-25km/hour. I’m a tortoise not a hare!

I continue to be amazed by the number of vehicles, in their rush to get wherever they’re going, which are quite happy to place my life in peril rather than slow down and allow me to pass safely. A classic is the right-hand turn. I’m approaching one, so I signal to the oncoming traffic, and those behind me, that I’m going straight on. This seems to be the equivalent of a call to arms as vehicles rev their engines and drivers apply feet to accelerator pedals in an effort to overtake me and turn right into my oncoming path. Would they do that if I were another vehicle? Before you answer, remember we’re talking about France here, the country with one of the highest rates of mortality on the roads.

The answer is that it depends on the right hand turn. If there’s a slip road, then the turn’s large so, if there’s room to squeeze in front, they will: likewise with a scooter or motor bike. Accounting no doubt for the high level of two-wheeled fatalities. Of course, as you cycle across these death traps yawning chasms, motorists have two choices: slow down and then turn behind you or speed up and cut in front. Now, I don’t think it’s going to take a genius to work out their generally preferred option.

We’ve covered traffic turning right, but what about traffic exiting right. With the exception of roads clearly marked ” GIVE WAY TO RIGHT” albeit in French, I have right of way on my bicycle. I know because I’ve checked in the French version of the Highway Code. However, it’s as if other road users have applied a ruling of their own, a sort of I know there’s a big fat white line telling me to stop but as it’s only a cyclist I can just nip out. The ones I particularly dislike are those who’ve stopped, looked in your direction, waited and then shot out at the last moment narrowly missing your front wheel. Did they not see me, or did they see me  surreptitiously feathering the brakes? Who knows?

I should add that this group is particularly dangerous on roundabouts. In France, pay no heed to where cars are positioned on a road, they’ll pretty much always opt for the shortest queue. Yes, I’m turning first right at the roundabout but I’m in the shortest queue on the left-hand side of the road, generally reserved for those turning left or maybe going straight-on.  This means if the car on the right-hand side isn’t turning right, equally possible, I’m going to cut him up as I turn right. For the cyclist these are the most dangerous vehicles as they need to get across quickly to avoid hitting the vehicle on their inside, you’re not on their radar and they’re paying us no heed whatsoever!

Now, what about oncoming traffic turning left across my bows. Regular readers will know that I’ve been knocked off my bike twice. Both times by inattentive lady drivers. In both instances, I had right of way and they were in the wrong. However a sense of righteous injustice won’t save my life. Luckily my ample padding saved me from anything more serious than cuts and bruises.

Lack of speed however does not apply when I’m descending. Again those couple of additional kilos and my fast wheels help me drop like a stone. Similarly, concentration, awareness and keeping over to my side of the road have seen me stay largely upright, safe and sound. Of course, I also generally ride on roads I know really well which helps enormously. I tend to more cautious when dealing with the unknown.

What about those pesky pedestrians? Indeed, they will happily step out in front of cyclists. Why oh why? You wouldn’t step out in front of a speeding car, so why step out in front of a speeding cyclist? Many zebra crossings in France are controlled by traffic lights. So, do they wait until the light turns green before stepping into the road. Hell no, they step into the road and then freeze in the middle of the lane. This leaves me in a quandary, which way are they going to move? It’s often hard to tell whether they’re going to rashly push on or rapidly retreat.

I have practised emergency braking but I can’t stop on a sixpence certainly not when I’ve just come barreling down a hill at top speed. I have nightmares about headlines saying “Speeding Cyclist Crushes Pensioners” except, of course, it would be in French and probably say something along the lines of “Une grande cycliste britannique écrase les petits retraités françaises”.

Thursday doors #155

Here are some new Italian doors from our most recent stay in Piedmont.

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favourite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments’ on Dan’s site, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time).

Trip to Paris: Part II

It’s rare that one of our trips to Paris doesn’t include a trip to Musée d’Orsay. This one was no exception, particularly as there were exhibitions on Catalan architect Gaudí, Whistler’s painting from the Frick and artist turned sculpture Aristide Maillol.

Gaudí Exhibition


Antoni Gaudí (1852-1926), architect and ingenious creator, made his mark on Spain at the turn of 20th century and still continues to fascinate. For the first time in 50 years, a large-scale exhibition in France is devoted to this master of Art Nouveau. The exhibition shows the remarkable depth of creativity of this singular artist: from his wonderful furniture to the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.

The Musée d’Orsay is hosting an immersive experience which offers a new perspective of the artist as an architectural genius who practiced in a Catalonia in the midst of social, political and urban upheaval.


The exhibition focuses on showing the architect’s creative process at a time of exceptional local artistic profusion linked to “Modernism” or the Art Nouveau movement in Spain. Gaudí’s workshop, his many collaborators, and his sophisticated working techniques are fully explored in the exhibition to articulate his extraordinary inventive capacity.

Through the few surviving drawings of the artist, models and many works of furniture, the exhibition reconstructs what characterises Gaudí’s work: namely space and colour. You are lead through his various creations: palaces, urban hotels, parks and churches, including  the Sagrada Familia. Films, photographs and documents  testify to the vitality of the architect’s career but also to the artistic upheaval he forever imposed on Barcelona.

Whistler Exhibition

At the same time we were able to see James McNeill Whistler ‘s (1834-1903), Masterpieces from the Frick Collection, New York.

Symphony in Flesh Color and Pink: Portrait of Mrs. Frances Leyland (1871), James Abbott McNeill Whistler

The Frick Collection – one of my favourite museums –  opened to the public in 1935 in the New York mansion of industrial magnate and major collector Henry Clay Frick (1849-1919), is one of the most important museums of European art in the United States.

With the closure of the institution for renovations, an important group of works by the American painter James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834-1903) have left New York for the first time in more than a century to be presented at the Musée d’Orsay. This exceptional exhibition brings together 22 works, including 4 paintings, 3 pastels and 12 etchings from the Frick Collection which are joined by 3 paintings from the Musée’s own collection.

Born in 1834 in Massachusetts, Whistler apprenticed and began his career in Paris between 1855 and 1859. After settling in London, the artist maintained a close connection with the Parisian art scene, exhibiting alongside the artists at the Salon des Refusés (Exhibition of Rejects), in 1863, and became one of the “beacons” of the new Symbolist generation in the 1890s.

In 1891, the French State bought his masterpiece: Arrangement en gris et noir : portrait de la mère de l’artiste [Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1: Portrait of the Artist’s Mother]. Around the same time, Henry Clay Frick built his collection, and in the early 1910s, opened it to the art of the late 19th century. He purchased eighteen works by Whistler – paintings and graphic arts – making this artist one of the best represented in his collection.

The Musée d’Orsay has showcased three large portraits representative of his famous “symphonies in white” and “arrangements in black”: the portrait de Mrs Frederick Leyland (a masterpiece of the Aesthetic Movement), the portrait de Rosa Corder and finally the portrait of the extravagant aesthete Robert de Montesquiou-Fezensac. This portrait, one of the last painted by Whistler, is probably the most modern work in the Frick’s collection.

Maillol Exhibition

, Maillol, Aristide

This is the first major retrospective of Aristide Maillol (1861 – 1944) since the centenary one in 1961 at the Musée National d’Art Moderne. Despite the timelessness of his work, Maillol played a crucial role in the early 20th century, during the birth of modernity.

Initially a painter, he then turned his attention to tapestry and decorative arts, only discovering his forte, sculpture, later on in life, around 1895.  Initially he sculpted using wood and on a small scale. But, as he was recognised by his peers, a network developed which was to be important throughout his career.

A meeting with Count Kessler proved decisive who commissioned a number of works from Maillol which now reside in the Oskar Reinhart Foundation, Winterthur. Maillol introduced a new classicism and rendered female bodies, with their robust and sensual anatomy, in simple geometric forms. In particular, he moves with ease from the sketch to the monumental, in a continuous back and forth. The impressive Monument à Cézanne [Monument to Cézanne] forms the centrepiece of a section that invites one to dive into his creative process.

Of course, one of the joys of this museum is the depth of its Impressionist collection which we love to revisit.




Wordless Wednesday #122

Wednesday is devoted to photos from Australia on one of my many #adventuresdownunder.

Trip to Paris: Part I

We love regular trips by train to Paris to catch up with the latest exhibitions (and restaurants). Consequently, we never need an excuse to visit but this time we had one, seeing our football team OGC Nice play against Nantes in the French equivalent of the FA Cup final.

We travelled up on Thursday morning arriving – how fortuitous – in time for lunch. We opted to stay near to Gare de Lyon at CitizenM, a small hotel chain we often frequent. Its style is not dissimilar to OKKO though its provenance is Dutch rather than French.

We spent our first afternoon fully exploring 12th arrondissement on foot which extends from the extreme eastern city limits and includes Gare de Lyon, the thriving Bercy neighbourhood, and the very famous market street, Rue d’Aligre.

You may be surprised to learn that 12th is home to plenty of monuments and hidden treasures. Bois de Vincennes is the biggest park in Paris, with romantic lakes and a giant zoo. Place de la Bastille hosts one of Europe’s supreme opera houses. Lively museums are found in Bercy and Porte Dorée. Le Train Bleu  – you know how we love lunching here – is a Belle Epoque historic restaurant. Here are a dozen good reasons to Explore Paris’ 12th Arrondissement.

1. Opera de la Bastille

Opera de la Bastille

The famous opera house was built to commemorate 200th anniversary of the French Revolution in 1989. Located on Place de la Bastille, the modernistic opera house can accommodate thousands of happy opera-goers. Before or after the show there are plenty of cafes and restaurants nearby, or wander into the neighbouring Le Marais Together, old and new happily coexist in Paris.

2. Chic Shopping at Bercy Village

Bercy Village

Bercy, a quartier in 12th Arrondissement, was previously famous for the warehouses used by wine sellers for storing their liquid gold. In recent years there’s been a renaissance in culture and commerce including the modern and pleasing Parc de Bercy, home to many French brands including Fragonard Perfumes, Eric Kayser, FNAC, and Oliviers et Co.

3. Gare de Lyon – A Belle Epoque Wonder

Gare de Lyon clock tower, photo by Mark Craft

Built for the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1900, the Gare de Lyon is considered a classic example of Belle Époque architecture. The large exterior clock tower bears a striking resemblance to London’s Big Ben. The high-speed TGV train station serves routes to southern and eastern France, as well as Switzerland, Germany, Italy and Spain. It’s also a hub for regional trains, an RER line and the Gare de Lyon Metro station.

4. Marché d’Aligre

Marché d'Aligre, photo by Mark Craft

Marché d’Aligre is three markets in one. First, it’s a market street filled with stores like boulangeries, cheesemongers, fish sellers. Second, Aligre also features a daily street market with booths filling the road in front of the stores. Third, Aligre holds one more secret — one of the few remaining covered markets in Paris, with specialty butchers and other delicious food stalls.

Trust me, this is must-see (and must-shop) if you’re interested in food. There’s a vast selection from sausages to shoes, cheeses to poultry, even a roasted pig on a spit. Marché d’Aligre is located on Rue d’Aligre, east of Bastille, between Rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine and Rue de Charenton.

5. Walk the Promenade Plantée

Promenade Plantée

This tree-lined walkway follows an abandoned railway line. Starting just behind Opera Bastille, it rises 10 metres (30 feet) above ground to afford a great view. Beneath its arches are stores and workshops filled with impressive arts and crafts in a shopping strip called Viaduc des Arts. Over the past few years pedestrian bridges have been built above parkland, plantings and arbors have been added along the path, buildings have “sprouted” on either side of the promenade (more of which next week).

6. Bois de Vincennes

Bois de Vincennes

2,500 acres of parkland make Bois de Vincennes the largest public park in Paris. To give this some perspective, it’s three times the size of NYC’s Central Park. Thanks to the initiative of Emperor Napoleon III (in mid 19th century), it’s an important hub of leisure activities, with the recently refurbished Paris Zoo, four lakes, a botanical garden, a horse-racing track, a velodrome, a 14th-century castle (Chateau de Vincennes ) and  Parc Floral de Paris, one of four botanical gardens in Paris, and the Jardin Tropical de Paris.

7. Jardin du Bassin de l’Arsenal

Jardin du Bassin de l'Arsenal, photo by Mark Craft

At the lower end of Canal Saint-Martin (between the Place de la Bastille and the Seine, where the canal comes up from underground) is Bassin de l’Arsenal, built on order of Napoleon Bonaparte. Because it links to the Seine, it’s used as a harbour for yachts and excursion boats. In 1983, the City of Paris developed the east bank of the Arsenal into a very pleasant garden park, promenade, and lively green space.

8. Lafayette’s Tomb at Cimetière de Picpus

Cimetière de Picpus

Cimetière de Picpus is the largest private cemetery in Paris. It was created from land seized from the Catholic Church during the French Revolution. Just minutes away, at Place de la Nation, a guillotine was set up and kept very busy — the cemetery’s 1,306 victims were executed between 14 June and 27 July, 1794. Only descendants of the original victims are eligible to be buried here.

Here you can visit the tomb of Marquis de Lafayette (1757 to 1834), a French aristocrat who fought in the American Revolutionary War. His close friends were Thomas Jefferson, Alexandre Hamilton and George Washington. An American flag always flies here (thanks to the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution). Although Lafayette died of natural causes, his sister-in-law and mother-in-law were beheaded during the Reign of Terror.

9. Palais de la Porte Dorée & Aquarium

Palais de la Porte Dorée

It’s a palace, it’s a museum, it’s an aquarium all rolled into one. Originally built for the Paris Colonial Exposition of 1931, the Palais de la Porte Dorée now houses the History of Immigration Museum as well as a tropical aquarium. There are intricate bas-reliefs on the exterior of the Palais that portray scenes from man and nature, complete with antelopes, elephants and zebras. While the Dorée Tropical Aquarium features 5,000 creatures in an array of tanks.

10. Concerts at Bercy Arena

Bercy Arena

Its official name is AccorHotels Arena and we’ve seen a number of artists here, including Lenny Kravitz. This large indoor sports arena and concert hall has a distinctive pyramid shape, and its exterior walls are covered with a sloping lawn. This is the venue where many big concerts and sports events take place in Paris.

11. FunFair Museum – Musée des Arts Forains

FunFair Museum

Bon vivant and antique collector Jean Paul Favand has filled a museum with his amazing collection, dating from 1850 to 1950 and including restored carousels, retro fair stalls, and hundred-year-old bicycles. Here you can watch an Italian opera performed by automata in a Venetian setting or go for a ride on a gondola merry-go-round in the Venetian Lounges.

The Fairground Art Museum is a tribute to 19th century funfairs.It’s all part of what’s called Les Pavilions de Bercy, set in former wine warehouses.

12. Musée de la Cinémathèque

Musée de la Cinémathèque

Lastly a museum whose building was designed by the iconic, sometime controversial, Canadian born architect, Frank Gehry. The Museum of Cinema celebrates the French love of film with thousands of posters, drawings, photos and films.

More than enough to keep us busy for a couple of days………….