One of my favorite places in Manhattan is the High Line, an urban park built on a section of the elevated former New York Central Railroad. The park runs along the lower west side of Manhattan, beginning in the Meatpacking District and continuing through Chelsea to 30th Street and then around to 34th. It’s a beautiful green space and a wonderfully peaceful place to walk, sit or just get away from the activity on the ground.
In Paris, the Promenade Plantée was the inspiration for the repurposing of the New York railway spur. And so we set out to see for ourselves and to also peruse the artist shops of the Viaduc des Arts. [From the Place de la Bastille, take Rue de Lyon (to the right of the Opéra Bastille) and stay left at Av. Daumesnil.]
The artists’ shops are located at street level on the Avenue Daumesnil in the arches of the former elevated railway viaduct, which supports the Promenade Plantée.
From jewelry to pottery and fine art to leather work, this avenue has an amazing array of art and artists.
In one shop, we saw a loom in the window with beautiful handmade clothes hanging about the ‘gallery.’ This shop was closed, so we didn’t get a chance to see the work up close, but the weave looked very delicate and well made.
The Michel Pintado gallery had some amazing sculptures of leaves, animals and other objects. The stone and metal elephants were simple, yet elegant and interestingly enticing. When I initially looked at the folded metal, I thought, “oh, interesting” followed by, “oh, it’s an elephant … WOW!”
By the time we reached the end of the galleries, we decided to stop for lunch. We were looking for a cafe and at the corner of Rue de Rambouillet and Av. Daumesnil, we happened to look up. To our astonishment, we saw statues built into the structure, running along each side of this corner building. Oh, and by the way, this building just happened to be a police station. We’re not sure why we looked up, but we could have easily missed this. The statues appeared to be very fine replicas of Michelangelo’s Dying Slave. [We did an online search later for the original, which is held at the Musée du Louvre.]
Following a very nice lunch, we took the steps up to the promenade.
To say this park is amazing is quite an understatement. It’s quiet, peaceful and overgrown, yet manicured (but not to the extreme). The walkway is lined on both sides with trees, bushes or ground cover, many with beautiful dainty flowers. Archways are present throughout the nearly mile-long walk.
Drooping casually over the sides or tops of the archways are wisteria, climbing roses (of all colors) or ‘snowdrift’ clematis.
The walk was delightfully fragrant and at about a 3rd story level, the tops of buildings provide you with a unique look at the city.
Park benches are placed throughout the promenade, and during our walk, most were occupied by people sitting with their faces to the sun, reading or just relaxing. It didn’t take much to see that they were enjoying the beauty of this space and the warmth of this Spring day.
From the Bastille, we took a detour to the Place des Vosges, the oldest planned square in Paris. This residential square was completed in 1612 and is surrounded by houses all designed the same.
A bronze of Louis XIII sits in the middle of some very old Linden trees and the square itself is surrounded by Lindens trimmed into square shapes.
The square is open along one street, but if you want to exit the square through one of the other three sides, your only choice is the side opposite, through an archway that goes under the center houses with a roof line higher than the others.
The warmth of the sun begged us to keep walking, so we continued through the Marais down Rue Saint-Antoine toward Rue de Rivoli. We stopped for an espresso at a cafe in a very old, small cobblestone square off Rue Caron called Place du Marché Sainte-Catherine before continuing on to the Hôtel de Ville metro and home.