My Neighborhood

15e Arrondissement + Parc André Citröen

                                                                                      My apartment building, la dee dah

                                                                                      My apartment building, la dee dah

My neighborhood is so beautiful!  The streets are lined with iconic Parisian apartment buildings, and in the mornings, children walk to school with their parents.  Paris smells like fall right now: the crisp smell of match sulphur against the morning chill, woodsmoke, distinct perfume and cologne in the early hours, before the heat of the day begins to blend everything together.  The ground is littered with chestnuts and golden leaves.  I'm happy.

If you're feeling ambitious and nice walk along the river, you can reach the Eiffel Tower by foot. 

The pictures below are from the Parc André Citröen, which can be accessed by walking along an old set of railroad tracks called la Petite Ceinture.  Similar to la Promenade Plantée, this set of railroad tracks have been converted into a public access route which stretches above multiple neighborhoods.  I'm going to write about it in a few days - stay tuned!


A Path Through the Rooftops

12th Arrondissement, Paris, France

Transport yourself back to the early twentieth century.  Paris celebrates a period of enlightenment, political progress and exceptional beauty.  The artists and philosophers who will come to define Parisian ideals spend their time in the open air cafes lining the wide, clean boulevards, and Haussmann's iconic designs for the city have nearly reached completion.

Already considered an international city, Paris is connected to other European ports by train.  On a smaller scale, residents can board a train that runs along an elevated track between the slate colored rooftops and churches.  

Fast forward seventy years.  The modern metro system has become the most reliable form of transportation in Paris, and steam engines have long since disappeared.  The elevated train tracks have fallen out of use, and they will remain at the mercy of vandals and vagrants for the next fifteen years, forgotten by the rest of the city. 

In the early 1980s, two landscape architects undertook the enormous task of transforming the railroad into the world's first elevated park, a project that wouldn't reach completion until 1993.

Today, the elevated railway is a unique and lovely park that runs from the ruins of the old Bastille to the Bois de Vincennes.  It ducks in and out of different neighborhoods, passing above quaint cafes, church squares, elementary schools and shopping districts.  You can catch views of the same slate colored rooftops that the Parisian philosophers once enjoyed, all those years ago, when the railroad was still in use, when the air was filled with the smoke of a steam engine, and World War I was still just a vague rumor.

Advice for Visiting la Promenade Plantée // 

* As with most Parisian parks, you should go on a weekday, preferably in the morning.  

* Bring a book and a snack, because there are a lot of benches throughout the park.  

* The beginning of the path is rather difficult to find, so you should bring a map.  

* Wear good shoes, so you can walk the entire thing in an afternoon.

The View from Above Paris

Montmartre, Paris - France

Montmartre is a charming neighborhood filled with crooked streets and narrow buildings.  Church spires and views of the city are visible through gaps between houses, and everything smells like flowers.  If you go in the afternoon, the streets will be crowded with tourists, especially if it's a sunny day.

Points of Interest:

* Wall of Love: A blue mural covered in the phrase "I love you" in 300 different languages.

Sacré-Cœur: The famous church on top of the mountain.  The church is free, but it costs 10 euros to climb up into the Ovoid Dome, which is the second highest point in Paris.

Place des Abbesses: One of Paris's prettiest squares, and the most convenient metro stop.

* Montmartre Cemetery: Just as interesting as the Père Lachaise Cemetery, but much less crowded.

My Experience with Montmartre:

Best Money Spent // A sandwich.  I was starving.

Best Free Moment // Eating my sandwich in a quiet park beneath a set of stairs leading down from the church.  The staircase is hidden, and tourists don't usually know about it.  The park is filled with the fattest cats I have ever seen in my LIFE, and they will use every trick in the book to get your food.

What My Camera Didn't Catch // A pair of old women examining an elaborate tombstone in the cemetery. They were admiring the size, the shape, and the color.  You know that feeling when you see a pair of men admiring an expensive sports car that they would like to own someday?  Same idea.

Natural History Museum

Jardin des Plantes, Paris - France

I found my favorite museum in Paris, and it's not the Louvre!  The Natural History Museum sits at the edge of the Jardin des Plantes, which is one of Paris's most beloved parks.  The museum itself feels like an old university, with lofty ceilings and flaking paint on the walls.  It's the perfect place to spend a rainy afternoon, reading the labels on the 1000+ specimens.  Some of the pickled animals are arranged in unintentionally comical poses.  There was a pig fetus with its hand on its hip, and its expression looked a bit smug... 

The museum is three stories high, and the top floor feels like an explorer's club.  There are old wooden cabinets, skulls behind glass, handwritten notes, and a wrought iron staircase ascending to an upper balcony.  The tall windows look out over the park adjacent, and when the building is shrouded in fog, you want nothing more than to curl up with a cup of tea and a book.

The best part?  It's free if you're under twenty-six!

Père Lachaise

Paris, France

H&M trench + shirt; Calvin Klein jeans; Dooney & Bourke bag

The Père Lachaise Cemetery is the perfect place to spend a fall afternoon.  It's shady and quiet, and if you go on a weekday, it won't be too crowded.  There are trees throughout the cemetery, which turn lovely shades of red and gold as the seasons changed.  You're guaranteed to see a few celebrities (dead ones, of course), and the whole thing is free.

There's only one thing to keep in mind if you're a photographer, and it's this: you can't use a camera tripod anywhere in the cemetery.  Cameras are fine, but tripods are not.  I can think of a few reasons why this rule might exist:

1) You might swing the tripod around and hit someone in the face.  We don't want to be responsible. Fine, fine, that's understandable.  Do you mind explaining your policy on open graves and broken cobblestones?  What about those sections of path that direct unassuming tourists towards unmarked drop-off points where they might fall 15 feet and land on a gravestone?

2) There are plenty of level surfaces throughout the cemetery upon which you might rest your camera.  We refer, of course, to the gravestones themselves. 

3) Solo travelers are pathetic.  If you don't have a friend who can take your picture, you should remain in your hotel room and cry about your social demise. 

To make matters more confusing, there are no signs indicating that tripods are prohibited.  The only reason I know about it is because when I walked past the guard station, a man came charging out, then told me to put my tripod away.  

Well...guess what...he was the second guard to tell me I couldn't use the tripod...and I did anyway.  That's right.  I broke the rules and used my tripod in the cemetery.  I'm a conscientious traveler, and I'm always respectful of rules, but both guards were very rude about it.  The second guard threatened to destroy all my photos if he caught me using the tripod again, and then he followed me around the cemetery, hiding behind gravestones and waiting to see what I would do.  I finally stopped walking and stared directly at him, at which point he vanished.

Guess what?  I had a great afternoon in spite of him, AND I got a lot of great photos.  Win-win.