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Monday, 6 October 2014

More exploration of Paris on foot

Thank you for your kind comments - you might wish you hadn't been so encouraging when you see this long post - I am writing it as much for myself to be able to revist as I am as a blog post which are and probably should be much shorter I know.  Anyway to continue our explorations:

La Petite Ceinture

Leaving the Allee des Cignes we made our way towards Ballard purchasing a picnic along the way.  We had heard about the Petite Ceinture last year too late to find it for ourselves and had picked up a free brochure of Balades or walks when we were visiting the Hotel de Ville on the Saturday which told us more.  La Petite Ceinture is an abandoned railway line which has been left to nature and there are some parts which you can walk.  Do check out the link which is a short BBC video in English and is fascinating.

 First climb the obligatory steps!

 Now we are above street level and it was intriguing to look down on the roads below as we wandered along the track.

 I imgaine in springtime when the wildflowers are in bloom it would be very pretty but wouldn't reccomend it on a hot summer's day as there was little shade on this section.

 This would once have been a station - it looked as if somebody lived here now though.

 The permitted path ends just under a mile later at the entrance to the tunnel - although the French don't seem to worry overmuch about Health and Safety I dare say walking through a dark tunnel might not be considered very wise so we climbed up the steps (again) and out onto the road

Looking down on the track from the road.  Not far from here we found a park - Parc Georges Brassnes built on an area which until the 1970s was abbatoirs.  No sense of that now though and it is a lovely place to sit.

Having enjoyed our lunch and a sit down we set off again towards the main road where we discovered we could get a tram using our tickets which cover travel on the Metro, the bus, the tram and the RER - we had bought a carnet of 10 tickets at a discount of about 20% over the price of buying 10 single tickets and also saving time at the ticket machines.  The ride took us about half an hour and being along the street gave us views of Paris as we went.

Bois de Vincennes

 We got off the tram at Porte D'Oree and the entrance to the Bois de Vincennes - a lovely park where we walked round the lake.

 We were interested to see heavy horses at work in the park as we sat with a drink later.  Mr M asked for a coffee so no problem there and I asked the chap at the kiosk whose first language was obviously not French, nor is mine, for a tea with some cold milk alongside.  I don't know what he did but I was presented with a plastic cup of cold very milky tea.  When I explained what I thought I had asked for he then made tea in a teapot, poured it into a plastic cup and passed me the jug of milk to add myself but when I began to drink it I had been given mint tea!!  Never mind it was hot, wet and actually not unpleasant, though I would never have added milk had I known it was mint and not Indian tea,  I was enjoying watching the horses in the sunshine so it didn't matter!

 We continued our walk in the sunshine and very attractive it was too.

 Here is the photo that some of you thought might be Stourhead!

We thought we might visit the Parc Floral at one end of the Bois de Vincennes but although there were maps on boards here and there along our walk we didn't actually find the route we hoped and arrived at the Chateau de Vincennes instead.

By the time we had wandered round the courtyard and decided to come back another day to look round the chapel and the chateau time was getting on so that when we reached the botanic gardens it was almost closing time so we decided it was not worth the entry fee for so short a time.  By now we'd been walking for hours - I have no idea how many miles we did that day - and I was ready for a sit down and a drink at a nearby cafe.  Having enjoyed our drink and feeling rested we got the metro from just near the cafe and made our way back to the hotel.

Buttes des Cailles

Next day we decided on a walk we'd found in a Dorling Kindersley book about Paris which took us to the Buttes aux Cailles a peaceful area where not many tourists seem to venture although we did stop to talk with an American couple at one point just outside an intriguing yarn and tea shop L'Osive The an interesting little tea shop which also sells yarns and hosts a knit and natter group - do check out the link for a much better photo and info.

After exchanging ideas of places we liked and where to go and so on with the American couple we continued with our walk.

 An area of old houses and with a bloodthristy history though there was no sense of that this morning.

Back in March 1871 this working class area, along with many others in Paris rose up against the French government based in Versailles after France's defeat in the Franco-Prussion war.  The National Assembly, elected in February of 1871 had a royalist majority and reflected the conservative attitudes of the provinces and the republican Parisians feared that they would restore the monarchy. The city of Paris set up its own government the Commune of 1871 and war broke out between Paris and Versailles.  Frenchmen slaughtered Frenchmen and more people were killed in one week than during the 6 years of the Revolution 80 years earlier!  Many buildings were also damaged including the Hotel de Ville which I showed you earlier.  One picture in a book about Paris history we bought shows it as a near ruin!  When the carnage was finally over France was left with a hatred between the right and the left that still poisons French politics.  The Communard legacy lives on here and this little shop sells T-shirts,books and pamphlets on that bloody episode.

Here is Place de la Commune - the site of a major battle in May 1871.  Looking peaceful in the sunshine in 2014!

And here Les Temps des Cerises restaurant is run as a co-operative and serves as the neighbourhood HQ.

But all around are quiet streets ....

 ...and here one of the first public housing schemes in Paris.

A red brick Art Nouveau swimming baths and see how many people are waiting to get in for a swim!

And just opposite the swimming baths is this rather ugly modern fountain refurbished in 2000 and supplied by a well 580 m deep and dating from 1863.  I tasted the water and it had a really earthy taste.

 More pretty streets...

 And finally what a find!  Something that is as rare as hens' teeth in Paris - an organic vegetarian cafe where we stopped for lunch.  I loved this; it was right up my street and I wished it were nearer the hotel so we could have eaten there more often.  We each had a huge pottery bowl of organic crushed pea and vegetable soup served with the most delicious soughdough bread and a glass of cider.  One of the highlights of the holiday for me as a nearly vegetarian!! It was obviously popular as it was full though not another tourist amongst the customers who all seemed to be known to each other.  They don't have a web site but in case anyone is interested it is at 72 rue du Moulin des Pres nearest Metro: Tolbiac - highly recommended!

We walked back to the Metro and made our way back to the hotel stopping at the patisserie nearby to buy a pastry (yes just one I asked for two but when we got back found we'd only got one!) which we shared with a cup of tea and had a rest before setting out to walk round the local area in the hope of finding somewhere different to eat that evening.  Finding restaurants that suit both Mr M, a meat and two veg man who hates pasta, and me, as I said a nearly vegetarian, locally since we were always too tired to go far after our days out proved somewhat difficult especially as the restaruant we'd liked so much last year had closed down!

Parc Monceau

 Having wandered through the park filled with children letting off steam after school we came out here at these fabulous  gates and walked on towards.....

 ....the Arc de Triomphe and onto rue Hausseman still heaving with shoppers even at this time of day with the sun going down. The tourists were packed onto the top of the Arc taking in the view - we have a photo of us up there on our first visit to Paris when on our honeymoon back in 1972!

 Back in the park it was quiet now the children had all gone and there were just a few adults enjoying the last rays of the sun.

 Here is the pretty bridge I showed you before ....

...  and a mock Greecian colonade.  This park dates back to the late 1700s and is supposed to be in part like an English garden.

As the sun set we made our way to a Brasserie we'd noticed for something to eat - end of another lovely day.

St Chapelle 

Our last whole day in Paris and we set off after breakfast to the Isle de Cite to visit St Chapelle or as the lady in the queue in front of me called it Saint Chap - elly! An amazing place but unfortunately due to restoration work much of it covered with tarpaulins!

 It was difficult to get decent photos but if you Google images for St Chapelle you will find plenty.  It is famous for the stained glass and the delicate pillars which support the vaulted roof between the windows.  The whole Bible story is pictured in them but you'd surely have a terrible crick in the neck if you spent too long trying to pick out the different scenes!  There are two chapels this one, which is reached via a narrow spiral stone staircase, which was for the king and his entourage and the lower one which was for the rest and which was lovely too.

 I was struck by the colours everywhere not only in the glass windows but on the floor....

 ...and the walls and pillars too.  We forget that this is how they would have been when so often the stone work nowadays is unadorned and plain.


This not very clear photo is of King Louis IX who was canonised and also known as St Louis.  A devout Catholic he acquired the Crown of Thorns from the Emperor of Constantinople and a couple of years later a fragment of the Cross.  St Chapelle was built as a shrine to house these relics although the Crown of Thorns is now housed in Notre Dame.

Leaving St Chapelle we made our way to Isle St Louis and to the ice cream shop and this time we got our ice creams!  I must say they were worth the wait - I had nougat au miel and Mr M chose plain vanilla and they were indeed delicious - maybe it was all that waiting to try one! If ever you are in Paris and fancy a really good ice cream then visit Berthillon on Isle St Louis  Sadly the founder died recently and this article has lots of photos of the ice creams and the shop.

Les Jardins Caches du 18e

After a picnic lunch in the gardens just behind Notre Dame we took the Metro to Porte de Clignancourt from where we intended to do a walk we'd come across in a little booklet picked up at the Hotel de Ville on the Saturday called the Hidden Gardens of the 18th arondisement.  It was marked as taking about 2 hours and being 3* which was apparently the advanced level for bon marcheurs as it woulde be steep and/or long.  We felt able to tackle this after our previous days of training!

 First garden we came to was alongside our old friend the Petite Ceinture cultivated by a community and having on one side an enclosure with goats - yes in urban Paris!

 And a little further along an area of gardens with seating but it wasn't open to visit though it did look interesting!

 We continued our walk towards Montmartre and here you can see whay it was marked as a 3* walk as we had climbed up all these steps from the road and there were a lot of them!  Taking the photo was a good excuse to stop for a moment!

 Next up was a Wild garden of 1500 square metres where the plants and animals live entirely naturally and withour any input from man.  This little treasure in the heart of Montmartre is protected and only accessible at certain times and our visit didn't coincide with one of those times!  Nice idea but we didn't get to see what it was like.

 On towards Montmartre and we passed the famous Lapin Agile cabaret and bar.  Just across the road from this is a vineyard the largest in Paris apparently from which about 2,000 bottles of wine are harvested each year.

 We continued on into Montmartre climbing more pretty streets.

 Until we came to the town centre via another flight of steps past this garden - which wasn't yeat open!  Not our lucky day really!  We continued into the shopping area where we stopped for a cup of tea and some chouettes at a pavement cafe.   I love these little choux pastry balls crispy with large grains of sugar and keep telling myself I will make some at home but so far haven't sourced the coarse sugar - anyone know where to get it in UK?

 Refreshed and rested we wandered round to the area just below Sacre-Coeur which was thronged with tourists.  Having seen it before and having had our fill of steps we didn't climb up to it! I did go to my favourite fabric shop though to browse and came away with a metre or so of rat-tail cord which I wanted.  For anyone interested in stitching of any kind this shop is an Aladin's cave and you find things there you can't get elsewhere - just the place to spend a rainy afternoon or longer and the only difficulty is in deciding what to buy and what you could actually carry home!

 By then it was time that the Jardins d'Abbesses should be open and sure enough we were able to go inside and have a look round this quiet little herb garden.  The herbs would in the past, and maybe still are, used as cures.

Leaving Montmartre and the last garden listed thus having completed our walk we made our way back to Villiers and the hotel on foot.  We passed a cinema outside of which was a homeless man who was busily picking his way through some popcorn dropped on the pavement and eating it - how I wished I had a sandwich or something to offer him....

 ...and a little further along was a shop selling what looked like posh hot water bottle covers untill I looked closer and noticed that this one was something called a doudoune for a dog at 209 euros!

Or if it's not that cold a "pull skinny" at 129 euros for your little dog!  How can anyone justify that when there are people starving I wondered!  Paris is certainly a city of contrasts.

Back at the hotel we relaxed in our room having enjoyed our last day of walking and exploring;  the day after we would be making our way to Gare du Nord and from there to London and home a long day of sitting down for a change.  We'd really enjoyed our stay and been incredibly lucky with the weather and are now finding out more about the places we found and wondering whether another trip maybe in the spring might be possible - always a good sign of a great holiday in my book.  If you have made it this far you deserve a medal!


  1. What a great trip Jane, your photos are wonderful.
    The railway track was fascinating and what a lucky find with the veggie restaurant, very rare in France!
    I follow L'Osive The on Facebook, it looks a lovely shop!
    V x

  2. I don't know if my earlier comment is in a queue somewhere, but I wanted to let you know that I thoroughly enjoyed these views of Paris. The small gardens and quiet streets are lovely.

  3. What a wonderful post, and just so you know, they can be any length you like, there's no "should". I really like the little tea and yarn shop, and also the hidden garden and goats. I think I'd want a garden and goats if I lived in the middle of a city too. It does look absolutely beautiful, you found some very lovely places. The houses with greenery over the outside are wonderful. Thanks for the tour! CJ xx

  4. Of course I made it to the end. A great trip! Glad you enjoyed it and are planning a return in May which is when we usually visit. Look forward to it as a visit next year is doubtful for us ... saving our pennies for our son's wedding!

  5. Love Paris - had to read this quickly to avoid envy overload! I've been there a few times, but it's quite obvious I'll have to go again, and again, and again...

  6. Wonderful, I have never explored Paris you have made me want to go.....

  7. Do you know, I have never been to Paris, over it, past it, round it and though it is all I have ever managed. So I thank you for this posting too, I have now, at least seen something of it.

  8. Thank you, Jane! I thoroughly enjoyed the virtual trip around Paris. I especially loved all the tiny old streets and the gardens. Oh, and thank you very much for mentioning some of the foods you ate. I made some Croque Monsieur... it was delicious. And now I want to make chouettes. :-)

  9. I've really enjoyed joining you on a virtual trip to Paris- we are hoping to go ourselves soon, and I hope we find as many interesting things as you always do. Do you research it beforehand or make it up as you go along? C x


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