From where I lived for six off-season, chilly months in the 19th arrondissement, the Buttes Chaumont park was a four-minute walk up the short Avenue de Laumière. Often, I waited at a bus stop facing the local town hall and right next to the park’s main entrance. Many other foreign residents would much rather walk in a gorgeous park than figure out Paris bus lines and use them, but for a long while, I avoided so much as entering the park. To me, nature, even well-groomed nature, is scary. But eventually, I succumbed to curiosity about the park’s architectural adornments: the Temple of Sybil (so alluring in the Franck Charel photo) and a floating footbridge that, when seen from my usual distance, looked like a landscape architect’s toy. I waited for sun — which could be a serious wait during some of my six months — and eventually did join the passing runners and baby carriages on the outer paths of the Buttes. My determined march up to the Temple was steep and high enough to increase my sense of health. Company on the summit was sparse but in really good weather, the space available — about the size of typically tiny Paris student’s studio — can fill up fast. From the Temple, you can see most of the 19th, which is saying a lot. And, the footbridge, as it turns out, is sturdily stable. So much for any possible Tarzan’s Jane sensations. But as my vantage point for the park panorama, the bridge was (and is!) peerless. Many spring walks later, the Buttes Chaumont remains an irresistible park.
Rooftop chimney pots are no less classic than the monuments in Franck Charel’s atmospheric Paris-by-night skyline. Notre Dame and the spire of Sainte Chapelle at left, the Eiffel Tower (what else?) at center stage.
The Promenade Plantée in the 12th arrondissement inspired the wildly popular NYC High Line. Since 2017, I’ve lived in the 12th — the first Paris ‘hood I’ve inhabited for a year (and more!) Near one entrance to the Promenade, you can fill your water bottle with free bubbly water. Do you know another city that offers free, naturally carbonated water in a public park? In several public parks?! Tell me, please?
The Paris Metro has convenience to recommend it, but compared to my beloved buses, the Metro usually is pedestrian (sorry) transport. An exception is Metro line 6 (Etoile-Nation), seen in Nathalie Prébende’s photo, for its lightness-of-being trip above luxe right bank quartiers and over some left bank enclaves (in the 14th, notably) that get less guide-book ink. Right bank station, Bir-Hakeim, is where you’ll get off for your tour of La Tour Eiffel. Line 6 (La six, in Paris parlance) takes you over La Seine on the Bir-Hakeim bridge. Your only other over-the-Seine Metro option is Line 5 (Place d’Italie-Bobigny) that travels on both Pont de Bercy and the Austerlitz viaduct. The Metro/bridge question happens to be tougher to answer than you might think. I gave up and called on pals for assistance. Merci to three of my super-parisiennes for their always-gracious help: Claire – the inveterate bus rider; Jacqueline, who has walked me around her historic and elegant Passy neighborhood in sight of the Bir-Hakeim bridge, and Marie-Paule – the Vélib‘ devotee . . . . Longtime and recent friends, some of them my 19ème arrondissement former neighbors, never fail to spike the temperature of my Gallic Fever.
Parisians crossing the Seine via the Alexander III bridge admit they may be too busy to appreciate design flourishes such as the four hammered copper nymphs (two per side) ornamenting the celebrated bridge. A bridge nymph gets the star treatment in Nathalie Prébende’s photo. As her harmonious composition suggests, the bridge and the Grand Palais exhibition hall (on the right bank) were made for each other: both art nouveau structures commissioned and built for the 1900 Exposition Universelle.
Leave it to the Louvre to artfully blend centuries of architecture. Okay, I took a few years to adjust to the I. M. Pei innovation — but adjusted I am. The better to appreciate Maurice Suberve’s photo for showing how a daring concept of contrast points up the beauty of each component.
Seductive architectural detail of Jean Nouvel’s genius Philharmonie de Paris hall in the Parc de la Villette, 19th arrondissement. At the turn of the (19th to 20th) century, la Villette was the ultimate in working-class turf — stockyards and slaughterhouses — but as the next century turn loomed, Paris planners envisioned the classy cultural environment eventually crowned (2016) by Nouvel’s asymmetrically layered, multi-textured shelter for great music, accessibly priced. I’m overdue for my (first!) in-person musical and architectural experience where once there were killing fields . . . .
Artist Niki de Saint Phalle (1930-2002) grew up partly in New York City, I was surprised to learn while researching her Nana sculptures. The beautiful Frenchie teenager attended some of my native city’s toniest private schools . . . but not for long; too rebellious. As her art evolved, success was quick to catch up. In the spring of 1968, a party of Niki’s monumental fiberglass Nanas took up residence in the Conservatory Garden of Central Park. Sharing the formal greenspace with the Nanas — seeming to tease them, according to some observers — were bristly metal “machines” constructed by Niki’s partner in art, Jean Tinguely. After six or so months, the dazzling Nanas would abandon Central Park — but they stayed with me. I’m a sentimental fan of the Paris Nanas, that (once again, with husband Tinguely’s works) adorn the Stravinsky Fountain adjacent to the Centre Pompidou museum. A wintry photo pilgrimage to the fountain pool by GallicFever master photographer Nathalie Prébende produced this satisfyingly brash Nana shot for our GF slide show.
Navigating the city like the branché (connected) journalist he was, a favorite Paris beau knew exactly how to show off the city. We took the elevator down to the garage under the Place de la Concorde, hopped in his sleek car and shot up the ramp into the brilliant Paris night. I know my friend enjoyed revealing the special sights, but what a coup he created just by parking in the right place in anticipation of the right time. Little could photographer Franck Charel imagine my delight at sharing this “souvenir” of a dazzle moment in my Paris past.