Viaduct des Arts and Secret Gardens in Paris
A few days ago we took a walk around the Viaduc des Art, near the Gare de Lyon and ended up at a planted promenade, an elevated, sort of secret garden.The Promenade Plantee, as the French call it, is just that, a promenade that is simply full of plants. And, it's elevated. The Promenade Plante is one of Paris' most secret gardens, a zealously-guarded place to stroll, muse, and enjoy the blooms. Its contemporary appeal is unbeatable: the long, narrow stretch of trees and planted flowers is built above-ground on what once was a railway track. A few lucky Parisians have direct views of the garden from their apartments, which themselves become part of the view for curious strollers.
The Promenade Plante, which is also referred to by locals as "La Coule Verte", stretches from Bastille through the area around Gare de Lyon and Bercy, all the way to the west entrance of the Bois de Vincennes.
In 1859, a railroad track for freight trains was constructed, a portion of which was elevated on a viaduct, connecting the station at Place de la Bastille, now removed and replaced with the Opera Bastille, to the station in Saint-Maur, 14 kilometers southeast of Paris, where the RET line A now runs.
In 1969, the use of this rail-line was discontinued. It was abandoned for years, becoming an eyesore in an already struggling neighborhood.
In the early 1990s, the City of Paris transformed this weed infested railroad track into the Promenade Plantee and Viaduct des Arts.
The abandoned viaduct Daumesnil, crumbling and scheduled to be demolished, has been transformed into the Viaduct des Arts. The original 70 red brick arches of the 1.5 kilometer viaduct have been restored, renovated and enclosed with glass and now house arts and crafts workshops, galleries, furniture showrooms, a restaurant and a caf.The original idea was for the artists and crafts-people to work in view of passer-bys on the sidewalk. For several reasons, this proved to be impractical, though there are some artisans who can be viewed working.
Among the many studios of the Viaduct des Arts are cabinet-makers, sculptors, ceramicists, tapestry-makers, violin and flute makers, restorers of furniture and art objects and interior designers.The Viaduct des Arts was open to the public in 1998 though it wasn't completely finished until 2000. It has since become a contemporary Parisian landmark.
The elevated portion of the Promenade Plantee runs from the Opra Bastille to Jardin de Reuilly, a distance of 1.5 kilometers. Underneath this section of the Promenade is the Viaduct des Arts.This elevated part of the Promenade Plantee is a narrow walkway, occasionally opening to wider, wooden-planked areas when it crosses over a street. Generally, a stairway down to street level (or up to Promenade level) will be found here. There is an elevator, which occasionally works, located just west of Boulevard Diderot.
The elevated level offers interesting perspectives of the variety of buildings which the Promenade Plantee passes.
The Promenade passes closely by old and new apartment buildings, and once seems to go right through the building.
The mass of plant-life that borders and sometimes encroaches the already narrow trail can give the impression of being momentarily lost on a forest trail. Then, sporadically, there are breaks in the herbage, offering views of the surrounding city.
One of the more unusual sights is that of 12 reproductions of Michaelangelo's "The Dying Slave" which adorn, of all places, the top of the Police Station of the 12th arrondissement.
The original statue of "The Dying Slave" by Michelangelo is found in the Louvre Museum.
Among the plants that are found along this walk are hundreds of rose bushes, hardy shrubs, acanthus, triton, lavender, bamboo, ivies and vines and wisteria and cherry trees, maples, lime trees and many other varieties.
The Promenade has two consecutive narrow ponds (everything is narrow up here) each with maybe a duck or two and a rose arbor or two.
The walkway goes through an area of modern-styled apartment buildings, then it becomes a metal bridge which opens up onto a plaza with a four-foot high floor sundial.
Here is the Jardin de Reuilly, the Reuilly Garden. The entrance sign to the Jardin de Reuilly states that the Garden is situated near the ancient Chateau de Reuilly which was a vacation house for the Merovingian Kings.
More recently, the Jardin de Reuilly occupies the site of an old freight station. It includes a large circular central lawn, a series of beautifully planted terraces and walkways, a children's playground, statues, a rose garden and an open-air caf. The main entrance to the Garden on Avenue Daumesnil is furnished with ramps making the Garden accessible for wheel-chairs and baby-strollers. One can either enjoy walking directly through the Garden, or traverse it by an arched, lightweight footbridge made of metal and wood that spans the central lawn of Jardin de Reuilly. It is the most elevated portion of this walk.
East of the Jardin de Reuilly is the Alle Vivaldi which basically runs through an office building plaza. Beyond this Alle, the Promenade splits into a pedestrian path and a bike lane and enters a gaping underpass that has five individual rock waterfalls within it. Once through this underpass the Promenade Plante completely changes.
What was an elevated walkway has become a sunken walkway where both sides of the Promenade Plantee are bordered by 30-foot tall outward sloping hillsides. For those who don't like heights, here is where to begin. The walls are covered with foliage as are the borders along the walkway. It is a very interesting sensation to be suddenly below street level after having been above it for the past 1.5 kilometers. It is a lovely, cool walkway, sometimes under a canopy of tree boughs. It passes through two old railroad tunnels which have ivy dangling down over the arched entrances.
For those who may be missing the upper elevations, there are observation towers to climb along this part of the trail.The Promenade Plantee splits at Avenue Gnral Michel Bizot. The trail to the right leads to Square Charles Pguy which has a children's playground, ping-pong tables and a series of small multi-leveled ponds that cascade into one another. It's a quiet and comfortable small park.
The trail to the left at Avenue General Michel Bizot continues to the Priphrique (the freeway which encircles Paris) where there are ramping paths that branching to the left and to the right to residential streets. Continuing straight, there is a metal spiral staircase that leads up to Boulevard Carnot.The Bois de Vincennes is a few blocks to the south. Two streets to the north is Porte de Vincennes. A couple streets to the left (west) on Porte de Vincennes is the metro station Porte de Vincennes on line #1.
In the spring, the Promenade Plante's cherry blossoms, chestnut trees, long "halls" of bamboo, and vibrant perennials make for an unforgettable stroll. Come here to unwind and see a side of Paris few tourists ever venture to explore.
Location: Main entrance at Avenue Daumesnil, above the "Viaduc des Arts". Take the stairway up to access the garden.
Metro: Bastille (Line 1, 5, )
Message Edited by lhbrown on 05-06-2008 07:28 AM