There are quite a few things I don’t like about my neighborhood here in the 8th arrondissement. I am surrounded by office buildings, haute couture boutiques, the President’s office, and the chain stores on the Champs Elysees , but there are not many shops for me to use on a regular basis. I am pretty sure I could buy a Renoir more easily than I can select a nice assortment of cheeses at a fromagerie. I have to take a bus or metro to do any serious grocery shopping or go to a market. However, one thing I have always liked about my location is my proximity to the Seine. Just a fifteen minute walk across the Champs Elysees and past all the fashion windows of Ave. Montaigne, and I am at the Pont d’Alma(the bridge which is almost at the feet of the Eiffel Tower). I can cross the river and then walk alongside it to another bridge, re-cross and walk back home. When I had Wonderchien here with me, it was a great route for our regular walks. Up until recently, however, when I walked along the other side of the river, I had to walk way above it, while very busy lanes of traffic zoomed between the water and me. Not any more! This summer the City of Paris completed a major overhaul of a 2.3 kilometer stretch of the Left Bank, between Pont d’Alma and the Musee d’Orsay. The project is called Les Berges de Seine, and it is awesome!
This beautiful part of the river is no longer flanked by zooming cars, but has been transformed into a multi-use recreational area for walkers, joggers, bikers, skateboarders, kids, picnic packers, and those who just want to enjoy an apertif or a light meal while gazing at the river. I have heard from my French friends (yes, BOTH of them) that this is pretty controversial in Paris because it has closed a major traffic artery, making the traffic problem in the city worse. But since I don’t drive, I have no complaints at all, other than I wish they had done it sooner!
Mark and I walked down there last Sunday night after unpacking from our weekend trip to Bordeaux, and we were delighted with the facilities and the buzz of activity happening there. There were people everywhere- jogging, riding bikes, roller blading, walking, and picnicking on the edge of the river. There are little bridges that connect the riverbank to floating gardens with comfortable chairs and even some green grass. Mark and I found an empty table at one of the many cafes set up there, and we enjoyed a cold beer while watching the scene on the Seine. It was divine.
I returned this morning (Thursday) to get some better photos, and there were very few people, but security was apparent and there was no trash to be seen.
Well done, Paris, well done!
Next time you are in Paris you must check it out. Just don’t ask your taxi driver what he thinks of it.