Charenton-le-Pont to Richard – Lenoir: Paris walk

Charenton-le-Pont to Richard-Lenoir métro 5. 5 kms (Charenton-Ecoles metro, Place du Cardinal Lavigerie, Avenue Jean Jaurés, Rue Claude Decaen, Place Félix Eboué, Rue de Reuilly, Rue Faidherbe, Rue Godefroy Caraignac, Square Saint Aboise, Boulevard Voltaire, 11th arrondissement, Richard-Lenoir métro).

Parc Zoologique de Paris.

I was deposited by my bla bla car from Reims in an area I had never previously visited. I decided to walk T the Maria Canal for my Seiki Shiatsu workshop with Catherine Dompas, but I dawdled so much, I had to ake the tube the rest of the way!

Where people live – I have seen this all over London and Paris recently: more people made homeless by the rich-poor divide.

Circus Big top, Cirque Pinder, glimpsed through the fence.

Wherever you go in Paris there’s something lovely to see amidst the blocks of flats, supermarkets and cafés.

Beautiful sun throwing shadows.

Église de Saint-Esprit.

There is a garden in front of the Saint Aboise Church in memory of the Monks of Tibhirine (Algeria). They were horrifically murdered in their Abbey during the Algerian Civil War. A French film was made about it, Of Gods and Men, was awarded the Grand Prix at Cannes in 2010.

To get to Richard-Lenoir métro from Boulevard Voltaire you take a left and walk through a public gardens with vines and a playpark.

An impressive floral display for the end of October.

London and Paris – Green spaces

Camley Street Natural Park; St Pancreas Parish church and gardens; and Goldington Crescent Gardens, Camden London.

The entrance to Pitzhanger Manor (being restored – it opens in 2018) and park, Ealing, London.

As I wander through European cities I find myself attracted time and again to the green spaces. Indeed a few days ago, at the advice of my walking guru, I traversed most of Paris from the Bois (woods) de Boulogne in the far east, to the Pont (bridge) Bercy.  I did not manage all the way the the Bois de Vincennes in the west due to time constraints.

Bois de Boulogne
Bois de Boulogne
Bois de Boulogne
Pont Bercy, Paris

Today I arrived off the Eurostar at St Pancreas London, weary in body and of spirit but the sun shone so I googled parks and gardens in the area. I made my way to the St Pancreas gardens, narrowly avoiding being run over by a London taxi due to the lack of a pavement, and came across a community garden I had tried to enter twice before, Camley Street Natural Park – this time it was open.

A slice of sylvan pleasure between railway, canal, and high rise buildings, I discovered that this London Wildlife Trust funded oasis is an ideal place to picnic. Flower beds are constructed from railway sleepers and hunks of stone with bordered pathways lined with bark pieces.

There is an extensive pond with a green membrane pierced by rushes, and a wild flower meadow with rose bay willow herb. It constitutes a very brief, windy way to the other side if you use it, as many suit-clad workers obviously do, as a thoroughfare; but you may also make a circuit and take in the bug-finding, log-pile place; the ‘fairy glade’ (where if I was not mistaken a counselling session was happening); and pond-dipping where a quiet volunteer was carefully cleaning the sign.

There are rustic benches in private nooks, and luckily a few tables in the cafe clearing because it was so densely wooded that there was almost no sun this September noon.

Bring your little ones and they will have hours of down-to-earth fun – inside if the weather is inclement (there is an activities room and exhibition with nests and pine cones) or out, learning about bats and birds, recycling and natural landscaping. I saw willow, birch, brambles and cherry, and there were tourists in the Visitor Centre being helped by the member of staff.

This old coal yard is located by the waterway which once transported the fuel to Yorkshire, where incidentally the next-door sliver of a bridge was formed before being placed in its current position in 2016. Unlike the Park’s paths which absorb any sound (do not try with buggies, bikes nor suitcases), the bridge’s smooth surface resonates with and amplifies joggers’ footfall and cycle wheels.

Just down the road is the St Pancreas old church and gardens, today shining in the sun and showing off its higgledy-piggleddy stones, working mortuary, royal blue water fountain (at least I think that is what it is), and unusual monument “especially dedicated to the memory of those whose graves are now unseen or the records of whose names may be …(could not read this word) obliterated”.

They have done a great job of bringing interesting facts and people to our attention in the wee church: the relationship of Thomas Hardy to the ‘consecrated burial ground’, and memorials to Mary Wollenstonecraft, female activist, and John Soane, architect of the Bank of England whose main residence is in the area and whose ‘country’ house in Ealing (Pitzhanger Manor, see above) I coincidentally visited last week.

Under the trees sit study groups, lunching pairs and individuals reading or on their phones. What a contrast with the welcome smell of warm wax which filled the holy interior. I enjoyed the plaque ‘in memory of my dear husband Earnest Wiggins d 1975’ before drifting into my third bout of 60 winks sitting on a proud wooden chair at the back listening to the ponderous ticking of an unseen clock.

Making my way towards Mornington Crescent tube station, with its faint hints of Mary Poppins and WW2 popular songs, I come across Goldington Crescent Gardens. In the Autumn sun, causing the fallen leaves to glow and throwing strong olive green and top-hat grey shadows on the grass, there is a public sculpture. It is in three parts: one resembles a silver pile of unmentionable; the second an ant eater with its snout in the ground; and the third I know not what. It stands out starkly beside the pink and red brick 1903 Goldington Buildings opposite, its edges elegantly wrapping around whatever is in its heart. Interesting fact: in Vienna they have a word for these buildings which conceal a space behind the facade which is ‘Hof’.

Goldington Crescent, London.
St Vincenz Hof, 18th, Vienna, Austria
Behind St Pancreas station, London.
Love, Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris.
Beehives, Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris.

 

 

 

Paris 2- France

27 – 30 April

28.4.17 Walk Villa Sainte Croix to Musée Eugene Délacroix

Isabelle’s lovely flower display

Whilst in Paris I was living with the generous Isabelle; Shiatsu practitioner, mother, and overall fantastic woman. Both she and youngest daughter, Isobel, recommended that I visit the Musée Eugene Delacroix, so today’s walk is from the north of Paris to the Left Bank.

I first traipsed up Saint Ouen and took a detour to Place Saint-Jean to see the striking St Michel church. Back around the corner I spotted the familiar French phrase cut in stone: liberty, egality,  fraternity.

Next was the shopping street of Avenue de Clichy selling espadrilles for €6 (I hope I did not make a mistake deciding not to buy a pair). I was once more walking, without my rucksack this time, through bright sun at 12.45 and after a frustrating morning trying to move money, my feet were once again on the ground.

I could feel myself slowing and calming. My spirit was easing. Now I was starting to enjoy my surroundings so that when a gentleman saw me taking a photo of motos and flowers and asked me if I was interested, I could answer in French in a relaxed sort of way.

I am reminded that I have everything I need here. I reassure myself, all is fine, yes, everything is going to be fine. There are lots of people sleeping rough on the streets of Paris, even a woman with three small children. How lucky I am in comparison.

As always, when I walk, my loved ones come to mind, and as I can not afford to buy and carry all the presents I might like to for them, I decide to take photos instead and send those.

At least they will know I am thinking about them: an umbrella with the Eiffel Tower on it in the Galeries Lafayette (when I go in for the toilet) for one daughter, a collection of pretty things for the other, delicate white porcelain for my sister, Tin Tin paraphernalia, eye-catching graffiti.

For Alice

On the Rue de Clichy there’s a bar (or is it a pub?) called The Coq et Bulldog, presumably representing a good French /British relationship.

In Trinité there are restaurants from all over, and a grand church covered with scaffolding overseeing a park where people are eating lunch between kisses.

Every cafe is completely full of working lunchers sitting outside in the welcome sun.

As yesterday, I am constantly moving from local area to posh one, to steets which are run-down. The Galeries Lafayette department store is simply enormous. The Opéra is stunning.

I usually prefer small, independent cafés, but today I know I can rely on Starbucks where my phone’s wifi will be recognised without having to enter a password, plus I will be able to charge it, and sit for as long as I like to write. I am grateful to have this time.

It rains! Nay, it pours, as I traverse the Pont du Carousel, walk beside the Seine, and there is a book seller straight from the film Midnight in Paris by Woody Allen.

Square Gabriel-Pierné
Square Honoré Champion

Musee Eugene Delacroix is just great. I really liked the juxtaposition of a gladiator floored by a lion, and three studies of cats lying down!

Garden of the Eugene Delacroix museum

Later I lounged in the beautiful garden, shut my eyes, enjoyed the scents of roses and listened to the bees by my ear. I breathed out relaxedly. There are purple periwinkle, geraniums, yellow wallflowers and white honesty. Lovers wandered just like they are supposed to do, speaking each other’s languages.

Rue Mazarine, wisteria
Institut de France
You know where, in the rainy background

Today I make sure I am back for dinner on time.

Typical view of the Seine. Getting dark as I walk back.

Paris 1, France

April 27 – 30 2017

Walk 1: Gare de Lyon to Villa Sainte Croix. 7kms 27.4.17

I arrived in Paris in the late afternoon after a soothing flight direct from Edinburgh. The security there was very trying: I rarely fly and so every time I do the rules have changed. It became apparent that you now have to fit all your fluids into one tiny plastic bag which has to be sealed. This meant I had to ditch several newly-purchased items, and if I ever have to hear that woman calling out to us ‘guys’ about these frustrating rules again, I think I might scream!

At Charles de Gaules, I was reminded how silly it is to change money at the airport because of the dreadful exchange rate, but I liked the clean, pink toilets – much better than any public ones in the UK.

After much deliberation, and a pleasantly warm sunbathe (yes, I am sorry reader, I rolled up my trousers although I drew the line at stripping down to my bra), I took the bus to Gare de Lyon (€18), and started my first walk across the city to the north.

There is a gorgeously lush clock tower at Gare de Lyon (67m high) with its pale blue clock face, smooth, grey-domed top part, and decorated within an inch of its life (no photo).

I love the Paris architecture in the evening sunshine.  Colonne de Juillet, Place de la Bastille

Remember to look left before I step out onto the cycle paths, I told myself, as I automatically looked right and only narrowly avoided a fleet of commuter bikes.

There are massive statues standing at the junction between each step of this walk: Places des République and Bastille, for example.

Place de la République

The corner cafés, familiar from so many movies, were filling up with after-work drinkers. It was becoming a fine evening – large groups of men were playing boules; fashionable guys riding mopeds were zooming in and out of the traffic and sliding to conspicuous halts in front of giggly groups of girls; stylish kids were streaming out of school in the weak sunshine; and of course there were traffic hold-ups contributing to the poor city air condition.

I particularly enjoyed walking along Avenue Deaumesnil, with its charming under-arches embroidery and fabric boutiques, art school, and book shops.

Walking on, I was surprised that I was not struggling at all with my large back pack after 5 months break from carrying it.

I came to the Place de la République with open-air table tennis and gangs of scateboarders extraordinaire. They performed their tricks with a nonchalant air, as soon as they knew I was watching, eager for an audience.

My tummy was rumbling as I approached Gare de L’est, so I tried out my French by buying that lovely sort of bread which is cool in your mouth and has air holes. I had to open the cheese packet with my teeth because of course you can not bring a knife to France on the plane.

At Barbés there were peanuts for sale, fresh garlic, and limes. The people sharing the pavements with me looked as if they might well have been doing dodgy deals. There were potentially dangerous disputes erupting at every turn. 

A wonderful array of restaurants from around the world lined the streets, and I could have very easily exchanged all sorts of things or bought a cheap phone or a yam, or got hair extensions.

And then, a few paces on, I segue into a new area and I am amongst a different type of pedestrian. It is now quiet, no excitable voices, the women wear red lipstick, and their heels clack on the tarmac.

 Great art deco-type decoration on this Louxor Palais du Cinéma, Boulevard de Magenta.

At Monmartre there’s a man living in a tent on a roundabout. The sweet odours of May 1st holiday posies, lillies of the valley,  are everywhere, as are the police and their guns – presumably as a result of all the recent terrorist troubles.

Time is passing and it was starting to get dark.  My frequent photo stops, memo writing, and Google map consulting has somehow extended the predicted 1.5 hours to 5, and I am grateful that my hosts are understanding when I roll up really late. There’s a meal waiting, wine on the table, and much kindness directed my way.