In the heart of the French kings’ hunting grounds one can, under contrition to keep the eyes and spirit open, come across a magical fountain or spring. It is the Fountaine de l’Étoile de Montaigu or in English: Fountain of the Montague Star.
Already the name is rich in beauty and fuels imagination…
The spring itself is mysterious. Water a colour of blue, it is not the blue of the sky. Where does this colour come from?
Voilà, voilà! It’s time for another “Discovering Paris” post. This time it’s again about a new park or garden in Paris. I want to tell you about the Promenade des Berges de la Seine, or more precisely about the Iles Flottantes (floating islands that are located there).
In 2013 parts of the Parisian quays were converted into a nice Promenade. Something, that used to be a road producing tons of pollution, as cars were channeled through the city, was converted into a pedestrian paradise. In the book Trapped in Paris by Evelyne Holingue the protagonists experience some rather negative sides of the Seine’s quays, that today, have almost become unthinkable.
Even though this promenade has been around for two years now, I have only discovered it last year. And since then I have made sure to come back here and now to enjoy. I think that for many Parisians it has turned into a great place to escape from everyday life, without having to leave the city or ruining oneself financially.
The promenade is 2.3km in length and is packed with activities. Often there are a lot of people, but due to the length of the quais, it is not a problem, you can always find your own space between walkers, skaters, cyclists and parents with strollers. In the warmer months of the year, giant flower pots line the river bank. Inside them you can find fig and apple trees and some quite monstrous looking plants. You can try yourself at playing Usain Bold with a 100m sprint. You, or maybe your kids can go rock-climbing, you have various equipment for exercises.
On the weekend you can find a coach to give you a free coaching session, take a dance lesson. There are restaurants, you have free sparkling water, clean toilets and can reserve a container transformed into a living room. This can be good for a rainy day, a lunch break when it is cold, a small birthday party, or just relaxing away from home. Here and there you can borrow chess and checkers pieces and get to play. There can be art exhibits, or there are projects to educate the passer-by about the environment. Because this promenade is after all a green project.
I always enjoy going down to the Berges de Seine, like I enjoyed going for walks on the quayside in Newcastle. But these quays have something special, they have the Iles Flottantes, when I heard of the project for the first time I actually had a vision of giant plastic desserts floating on the Seine. I had it all wrong. These floating islands are a brilliant way of gaining more land, giving nature some more space without having to deviate the river or doing anything completely questionable from an environmental stand point. A group of metal islands, attached to massive poles are now a nice new park. Richly populated by different types of plants and even animals.
One can sit and relax on one of the islands, being cradled by the coming and going of the waves. There are wooden recliners on one or giant hammocks on another to make you feel at ease. Of course, I suppose for someone who suffers from sea sickness this might not be the best place to be.
The giant hammocks or nets are there so one does not trod on the grass growing beneath them, while fully profiting from the island. On weekends it is likely that the space is rare, as many people will be there enjoying a book. On another island there are apple trees, with tiny little apples. They are not for human consumption but for the pleasure of the animals.