The other day I was waiting at Gare de Lyon in Paris to take a train to Burgundy (I know I have the best job, right?!)…
I had quite a bit of time to spare so, lugging my suitcase and camera bag I wandered outside the station. I decided to go no further than 10 minutes’ walk away to see what I could discover close to the station.
The Promenade Plantée Paris
Down a side road opposite the Gare du Lyon – I spotted what looked like an aqueduct and headed off towards it. Five minutes later I arrived at Avenue Dausmenil, at what is known as the Promenade Plantée, a planted walkway.
Once a railway line, begun in the mid 1800s, that ran above the streets of Paris it was left abandoned in 1969 as bigger trains were introduced and new lines laid. Someone had the idea to plant it up and turn it into a park in the sky. Genius. In fact, the celebrated Highline Park in Manhattan, New York was inspired by the Paris park, and I’m not surprised – it really is lovely. And even better, if you have a suitcase like me and don’t want to lug it up the stairs, there’s a lift.
I was there on an mellow and sunny Autumn day. The colours on the trees glowed gold, orange, red and yellow. A few people sat on benches eating their lunch, joggers passed me by as I trailed my suitcase along the smooth path.
Take a promenade in Paris
The Promenade Plantée is also known as the Coulée Verte. It winds through Paris for 4.5 km from Opera Bastille to Bois de Vincennes. The overhead cables of the train line which was built in 1859, have been replaced by the sprawling branches of an avenue of trees.
I didn’t have long to wander but I saw an outdoor gym, loads of places to sit and chill and secret squares. Helpful signs point out where you are en route so you can hop on and off the walkway at key points. My Paris friends tell me that you go through tunnels and there are even pools on the “line”. It’s strangely rural and quiet when you’re up on the Promenade Plantée. The sound of the traffic below is hushed, softened by the trees and plants. You have a unique view over the street and the shops, houses and apartments from your perch up to ten metres above road level.
Underneath the access point on Avenue Daumesnil near Gare de Lyon is the Viaduc des Arts. The former railway arches have been transformed into shops and showrooms for artisans. Here you’ll find chocolate makers, goldsmiths, glass blowers and umbrella makers, artists of all kinds and chic cafés. Most people strolling this street simply don’t look up to see that just above the arches is the narrow, meandering park.
Enjoy time out from the hubbub of Paris and take a walk on the wild side in the park in the sky!
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