Our two good friends made sure that we hunted down gardens last weekend. The weather was perfect for city strolling, sunshine, a couple of tiny showers, and just nicely warm, but not hot, temperatures. It’s easy to forget that in big cities like Paris, the opportunity to enjoy an outside space is not usually available at home unless you are a well-off citizen.
We visited the Parc Bercy, a beautiful space created, with the canny retention of some old, original buildings (see above) when the world’s largest wine warehouse site was transformed into garden and leisure space more than 3o years ago. Back in the nineteenth century, as it was situated just outside the (then) city limits, wine in Bercy was cheaper than in the city and trade flourished in the largest wine warehousing facility on the planet. Now, the space has been entirely revitalised as a city park.
There are three main areas of garden, a Romantic garden filled entirely with a huge variety of roses, with many old varieties and species roses, a wide open parkland area perfect for picnics and games, and an area which contains some of the original buildings and a vegetable garden. Almost ripe mulberries were littering the ground near the Romantic garden, and the whole area was full of families and small groups enjoying the outdoors.
I adored the curly planting borders in the ornamental and practical Vegetable Garden, and the big stands of artichokes in full thistle-y flower were dramatic, and made me smile. Some of the area has been rather over-developed into endless, rather naff and expensive eateries, but never mind, it works beautifully as a practical and charming space for locals and families. Well worth the visit.
On the way home, crisscrossing the road system near the Gare du Nord, we walked again down the Coulée verte René-Dumont, or Promenade Plantée, which takes you above the street level along the old railway line, and which was transformed into a garden walkway long before its more famous cousin, the High Line, in New York City. It runs for nearly 5k from Bastille to the Bois de Vincennes, and is a brilliant way to get above the streets and enjoy a garden space that feels almost homely in its scale and choice of plants.
I actually love it for its non-ostentatious planting, the embracing of the inevitable weeds that do crop up, and its slightly rambly, wild style. I wrote about it in February this year when we walked the other way down it. In summer, you can see more clearly the careful positioning of pergolas and trellis every few hundred metres, the repeat placing of a dark-leaved tree or shrub that provides a draw to the eye from the greenness of the rest of the planting, and some tough small-flowering roses that occasionally tumble very nicely.
I admit that I am blogging in three parts partly to deal with post-Brexit blues! But I do think that this trip was a triumph, thank you Martine and Proinsias, for your great hosting!