This year I passed through Paris several times for short period of times and, although, I was busy during most days, I took every opportunity to wonder around this fabulous city in the evening. There is so much to see in Paris that it is difficult to decide where to go and what to see. As I had not much time on my hands I tried to visit some of the more famous sites such as the Louvre and the Arc de Triomphe as well as some more off the beaten track destinations, such as “La Petite Ceinture”. I wondered from the Pont the de Bir-Hakeim in the 15th/16th arrondissements to the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont in the 19th arrondissements, via the Jardins du Luxembourg, not all in one go I hasten to add and occasionally using the Metro.
Le Pont de Bir-Hakeim et La Defence
Le Pont de Bir-Hakeim has been made famous by its appearance in several films such as Rififi, Zazie dans le Metro, The Last Tango in Paris and more recently in Inception. The first time I went to see the bridge it was definitely popular as there where 9 or 10 photographers traipsing around with tripods even though it was raining heavily. The bridge also seemed to be a popular backdrop for people doing photoshoots. The second time I went to visit, the bridge was completely deserted and there were no photographers in sight.
After visiting the Pont de Bir-Hakeim, I took the Metro to la Defence in the hope that the “Grande Arche” would be lit up but, to my slight disappointment it wasn’t. Nevertheless, the whole area looks pretty spectacular at night, with all the office blocks lit up and it is definitely worth a wander. Just make sure that you exit the Metro at “La Defence” and not the “Esplanade de la Defence”, otherwise you have a bit of a walk on your hands.
Along the Seine
One of the best things I did during my short stays in Paris was to wander along the banks of the Seine just before sunset and during the night. On the east side you can basically walk from the “Quai des Tuileries” to the “Quai Henri IV” past the “Ile de la Cite” and the”Ile Saint Louis” and the you can return back to the “Quai des Tuilleries” on the west side of the Seine. The banks of the Seines are pretty atmospheric at night, the buildings and the bridges are all lit up, there are lots of people around listening to music, eating , drinking and there plenty of eateries, coffee shops and bars on the way. Even during the day it makes for an interesting little hike.
That part of Paris alone could keep you busy for a day or two as it houses Notre Dame (which unfortunately you cannot visit at the moment because of the fire), the Louvre, the Quai d’Orsay and “La Grande-Chapelle” and among others. Moreover, you got “Le Marais” on the east bank and “Le Quartier-Latin” with the Pantheon and the Jardin du Luxembourg on the west bank.
Off the Beaten Track: La Petite Ceinture
My main reason for traipsing to “Le Parc des Buttes-Chaumont” was to go and have a look at a disused and abandoned railway line called “La Petite Ceinture”, which in the late 19th century and the early 20th century more or less encircled central Paris and basically constitutes the forerunner of the parisien Metro. Bits of “La Petite Ceinture” can be found in the 12th to the 20th arrondissements and there are several access points some of which are more official than others.
“La Petite Ceinture” was built between 1852 and 1869 under the rule of emperor Napoleon III, by Baron Haussmann, the infulential city planner, and stretches for 32 km around Paris. Originally built to transport material goods from depot yards to central Paris it was opened in 1862 for passenger services as well. At the height of its activity, there were steam trains charging in each direction six times per hour.
The decline of “La Petite Ceinture” started with the construction of the Paris Metro in 1900. As a result, the passenger service stopped in 1934. At the end of the 70s, with the disappearance of the slaughterhouses of Vaugirard, the Cattle station of La Villette and the relocation of the Citroen factories, the freight traffic fell drastically as well and “La Petite Ceinture” stopped to operate. For more images of “La Petite Ceinture” have a look at the Abandoned Places page.
Note that “Le Parc des Buttes-Chaumont” also contains a 63m long suspension bridge that was designed by Gutave Eiffel in 1867.
Hungry and Tired?
While in Paris I stayed at the Hotel Boris V, 73 Rue Louise Michel in the 17th Arrondissement. I like the hotel even though it is slightly out of the way. However, the metro station is about 500 m down the road and there are several patisseries on the way which is a definite plus in my eyes. There are also plenty of restaurants in the neighbourhood so you will not go hungry. The hotel itself was clean and comfortable and served a decent breakfast (they will even get gluten free bread for you if so required).
Among the places I ate and had coffee I particularly liked the following three: le Cafe-Restaurant Louis-Phillipe (Rue du Pont Louis-Phillipe), l’Ebouillante (Rue des Barres) and the Savannah Cafe (27 Rue Descartes), the latter one being my favourite. The Savannah Cafe serves nice Lebanese meals at a reasonable price and is within walking distance from the Jardins du Luxembourg and the Pantheon.