Despite a great stopover in Seoul breaking up my journey, when I awoke on my first morning in Paris, I realised that I would need to get out and about to avail myself of some fresh air and sunlight. My Airbnb apartment in the 12th arrondissement was a short 10 minute walk from Gare de Lyon train station, the line that I would take south to Arles in the next day or so. I had to get my ticket and also breakfast, so I decided to take a wander to a landmark I had heard about from my friend, Delphine, the Coulée verte René-Dumont or Promenade plantée. From street level there is not much to give away the verdant raised bed that tops this disused railway line. Many shops now occupy the supporting arches of the Viaduc des Arts, but you can imagine that probably not that long ago this area was neglected space. Now it is home to all kinds of artisans and creative types, both within and outside the walls.
While the shops and arches provide a lovely diversion, the real surprise is upstairs. You can access the promenade at each crossroad, and if you happen to be there on a Sunday morning as I was, you will share your amble with joggers of all shapes and sizes. You can be enchanted so much by the garden you are walking through, that you may miss certain other interesting things. In some places the trees and shrubs are tall, and only give glimpses of the buildings on either side. I was lucky enough at one point to spy a sculpture on what I found later was the Police station. It was an impressive lazy nude male caryatid probably a storey high. He wasn’t supporting anything, just leaning. I needed to walk on a little further to realise that there was a whole regiment of them decorating the top of the building. At another point, as I was coming to the beautiful pool in the middle of the path, I heard Gregorian chant coming from an open apartment window – apt for a Sunday morning in France.
And it seem that the vegetation was Day of the Triffids like spilling from the path onto people’s balconies and planter boxes. At 8am in the morning with the night’s freshness just retreating, I can understand why herbaceous smells spark whole industries of wine and perfume. They remind us we’re alive.
You can walk the full linear park for 4.7 kilometres from Bastille, but I turned back at the Jardin de Reuilly, after taking in sculptures and the most beautiful display of summer flowers.
I didn’t want to leave this magical place, so I walked all the way back to the other end at Bastille. Wending my way back towards Gare de Lyon, I noticed some activity on a side street. As one does in Paris, one tends to follow one’s nose to check things out, and I found myself at the edge of a bustling Sunday market at the Place d’Aligre. Blueberry yoghurt in a glass jar, a half a baguette and some camembert – voila! Breakfast.