Inner city living, eh? Flying by the seat of your pantalons from metro to boulot to whichever hipster hangout or cultural happening is the flavour of the moment, dodging your fellow chic citizens along the way. A constant thrill ride though it can be, sometimes you just need to take yourself off to a quiet green corner and take a few (hours of) deep relaxing breaths before you give in to the urge to boff someone across the chops for pushing in front of you at the supermarket. It’s high tension living for sure.
Thankfully large cities are fairly accommodating things and provide us with parks a plenty in which to mull over our urban woes, savour a sandwich or stroll through the leafy air without purpose to recharge our lungs. Paris may find it hard to compete with the sheer size and centrality of London’s royal parks or New York’s Central Park in its very heart, but there are enough small patches of lawn for everyone to have somewhere near to have a breather.
My need for the green took me up to Parc de Belleville one afternoon, sandwiched between Buttes Chaumont and Père Lachaise in the 20th arrondissement. An enormous sweeping park it isn’t, moulding itself around the hilly contours of the neighbourhood with enough steps to provide a behind-shaping workout, but with its winding leafy-lined paths, it’s probably the most Central Park-y space Paris can muster (minus the kamikaze squirrels).
It may not have Parc Monceau’s refined beauty or the classic charm of the Jardin du Luxembourg, but one thing it can particularly puff its chest out for is the view you get from the top. At 108 metres it’s the highest park in Paris, and therefore an awesome spot from which to survey the beauty of the capital spread out below. All the gang are in the picture; the Eiffel Tower, Tour Montparnasse and every church tall enough to muscle into view, plus there’s a handy plan that points it all out to you and a viewing scope for a close-up look.
Your only other options for getting a decent panoramic view of our darling girl is to shimmy up one of the highest buildings or climb the stairs to Montmartre, but we all know how common those ideas are. Nothing ruins a wide shot of the city scape like a strange tourist’s head. Here you can take in the scene in perfect peace without a foreign elbow shattering your sense of calm.
Once you’ve convinced yourself you’ve correctly identified where your apartment/hotel is in the geographical scheme of things, you can head down slope to a park bench, a patch of the 1000m squared of lawn, or choose instead to get to the bottom of that misty haze hanging over your vision, and check out the (free to get into) Maison de l’Air which will educate you about the importance of fresh air and the pollution problems choking it up. There’s a definite undercurrent of environmental protection in this park more than any other.
If the weather’s just not playing ball, check out the view and head toute de suite afterwards to one of the colourful independent cafes in the area, where the prices are far friendlier than in the packed-to-the-pavement tourist hangouts. This weekend though you won’t have to, given that we’re set to be graced with sun and an unseasonably warm 23-degrees. Time to give your sunnies their swan song and take in the panorama before the winter descends.