I see trees of green, red roses too

Kim Coulee Verte 1If months were people, June would be the blond ringlet-headed child with rosy cheeks who just plain refuses to go to bed as they’re too busy seeing all of the fairytale beauty in the world to worry about sleep. In adult terms, we might describe this month as the ‘dirty stop-out’, being the proud owner of the year’s longest day and therefore a devilish persuader for the world to stay up late (northern hemisphere at least) and shun the comfort of the interior.

Kim Coulee Verte 2June sucked when we were kids and we were forced to imprison ourselves in our beds when the night stubbornly refused to call an end to playtime at a decent hour. But as grown-ups the good news is we get to reap the benefits of that childhood injustice and enjoy gentle sun-filled evenings that continue long into the normal twilight extending past 9pm and beyond.

If we’re talking about s t r e t c h i n g out the fun, then your time is best spent using a bonus evening to walk the length of La Coulée Verte (or La Promenade Plantée as it was), a green slither of nature extending from near Bastille in the 12th arrondissement right up to the périphérique. Take a look on the nearest map of the city to hand and pinpoint that belt of green snaking across the page – bet you never noticed that before.

Jardin de Reuilly

Jardin de Reuilly

What to do with a redundant railway line is undoubtedly an ancient conundrum since we’re so intent on constructing new ones these days, but that’s exactly the problem the city planners of Paris had on their plates after the old train line connecting Bastille and Vincennes was closed in 1969. Happily back in those days greedy developers with euro signs for eyes weren’t quite as quick off the mark as they are now, and there was plenty of time to consider what to do with the unused land. Plans for a huge slip ‘n’ slide were hastily rejected, and an idea to build the world’s largest horizontal bungee alley was too quickly dispensed with.

At first culture won out and in 1984 at the western end the old Bastille station was razed to make room for the new opera building. By the late 80s the development of the rest of the stretch was underway as nature took control, and the full 4.7km was eventually inaugurated in 1993, providing the residents of Paris with a delightful slice of green to enjoy for when the hour calls for a genteel promenade.

Viaduc des Arts

Viaduc des Arts

The western end stands tall 10 metres above street level trailing along Avenue Daumesnil nestled atop the renovated arches of the Viaduc des Arts where you’ll find eye-watering home decor shops ready to suck your cash. I prefer to rise above such temptation and stroll amongst the elegant greenery and appreciate the intricate trellises and climbing plants, delicate rose gardens, water features and manicured shrubs, trying not to get in the way of the generous dusting of joggers who adore the structure’s linear form.

Kim Coulee Verte 4The middle of the corridor offers a perfect picnic spot in the Jardin de Reuilly and a return to ground level, and the path continues via the Allée Vivaldi slicing through a collection of modern buildings. Heading further out of the centre and sculpted becomes wild as the bushes become denser, higher and more unkempt, concealing any smudges of urban tableau that try to peep through. If pleasant meandering isn’t enough, there’s atheletic equipment dotted around for anyone to use, and this part of the route opens its arms to dogs and cyclists.

So, it would be rude not to take a wander when the late hours are so welcoming and the daylight isn’t so pressed to leave us. ‘The night is full of terrors’ said that crazy woman on Game of Thrones. Not at the moment it isn’t luv, in June, as Louis said, it’s a wonderful world.

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Roll-out indoor bathroom garden in all its glory

PS. In the spirit of turning old disused things into windows of lush green paradise, here’s how the grand renovations happening at Granny Flat are progressing…

Messing about on the river

So fresh and so green, green

So fresh and so green, green

‘No man is an island’ philosophised John Donne. Well I’m hardly the best candidate to verify his musings (what with my giveaway lady lumps), but I have learned recently, that if that man’s an artist, then he may or not be an island, but he certainly needs one for inspiration. The Île-de-France may lay claim to inspiring, housing and incubating some of the world’s greatest talent, but that’s just cheating – an area that includes Paris, its famous winding river and numerous sprawling suburbs can no doubt lay claim in some way or another to most things (yes, even Kim and Kanye have been here. Shudder).

Kim Chatou 2Zoom in to the city further and you hit the creative ‘islands’ of Montmartre and Montparnasse, the pavements of both practically sagging with the weight of history that surrounds them, not to mention the footfall of eager art tourists making sure they hit all the right spots. But for some of France’s great painters, it wasn’t the hedonism of Paris’ central districts that acted as muse, but some of the greener spots a few kilometres away from all of the gaiety. Monet’s legacy will forever be wedded to Giverny, but if it’s impressionism that gets you stroking your brush, then a trip out to Chatou and the Île des Impressionnistes is well overdue.

You thought the Seine fizzled out into a sorry little trickle the minute it crossed the périphérique? Oh no my dear, naive explorer; head out into the wider, leafier parts of the Île-de-France and you’ll find it flowing serenely out into the unknown (according to Parisians anyway, but no, actual people really live this far out). The very same river, just not quite as brown, without bobbing crisp packets clinging to the banks and sans an endless procession of tourist boats pootling up and down.

THAT famous balcony

THAT famous balcony

Paris proper may have its islands Cité and St Louis, but out in the Yvelines, the Île des Impressionnistes is the only mid-Seine sanctuary worth talking about. Renoir and his fellow impressionist chums thought so, and he and his entourage (from time to time including Monet and Degas) spent a great deal of time on a this tiny green patch, discussing ideas, socialising and dining to their bellies’ content in the local restaurant La Fournaise, taking in the views on its river-facing balcony.

So good were the happy times spent boating on the water and relaxing with lunch when the rowing was finished, Renoir was moved to create one of his most famous works Le déjeuner des canotiers (Luncheon of the Boating Party), featuring a collection of his friends typically kicking back with food and wine in that very spot. Remember the film Amélie and the old neighbour who keeps painting the same picture again and again but can’t recreate the same expression on the face of the girl in the middle? That’s the one. The less famous Le Déjeuner des rameurs (The Rowers’ Lunch) and Les canotiers à Chatou (The Boaters at Chatou) were born from the inspiration of the same place.

Les canotiers à Chatou (1879)

Les canotiers à Chatou (1879)

Lunch spent absorbing impressionist vibes on that now-canonised balcony is a bit of a stretch (the restaurant prices are as lofty as you’d expect), but the views from the bank alongside it are as charming as you’d imagine from a place that inspired one of France’s most treasured artists. A stroll along the bank on a weekend (when the Navigo is dezoned, hooray!) is as pleasantly refined as it probably was back in Auguste’s day (that’s Mr Renoir to us humble folk). Plus Chatou’s nearby town centre has some charming independent shops and an open square begging for an afternoon glass of wine on a café terrace. You never know, maybe that doodle on your napkin could be the start of a wonderful career.

Take RER A to Chatou-Croissy, zone 4, follow your feet to the island via a map inside the station, near the main exit.