Friday, 3 June 2011

Park Life - La Villette

One of cycling in Paris's most hidden gems is definitely the canal, this Thursday being a public holiday and also one of the most beautiful days so far this year, I had the luck to be invited up to Parc de la Villette in the 19th for a general hang out in the sun.
So in order to benefit of this fantastic day I had completely off work I headed off. 

The trip to the park was nearly as nice as the park itself. The canal is one of Paris's most underrated public spaces and feels like an authentic slice of parisian life as there are hundreds of people sitting by the canal chatting or playing games and not a tourist to be seen. There are also lots of great little bars and bistros that line the canal and these were full of people, the most popular with a queue to buy drinks a snacks for the all the people sitting out along the canal.

Another great thing about cycling along the canal is the dedicated bicycle lanes, so apart from a few large junctions you wont have to even think about where you going or watch the traffic, you just simply go with the flow. Here is the route I followed.

One thing most new people to Paris don’t realise is the value and importance of these public parks and spaces in Paris. While for example everyone in Ireland strives to have a semi-detached house with a front and back garden, parking place and 2 hour commute to work, the approach here in Paris is different. Space is at a premium and living within the Peripherique is seen as a lucky privilege that you will sacrifice a lot for including
  • A significant percentage of your wage,
  • the option of not having more than 3 people(including yourself) visiting in your 10sqm “chambre de bonne”
  • standing room in your sleeping area
  • cooking facilities
  • a toilet in your apartment,
  • a washing machine
  • your own room
  • sleeping in the living room
  • any options of having pets larger than a gerbil,
while to a lot of my Irish friends might seem horrified at the thought of the circumstances mentioned above, most of my Parisian friends will sympathise that these are some or all the things that you will compromise on in order to benefit of the glory of living in a city where real-estate is counted in meters squared and not how many bedrooms.

So while people do sacrifice allot in terms of their living standards this is compensated for by the fact that we live in Paris, one of the greatest city's in the world, and since the option of comfortably accommodating friends in your living quarters is often not an option this is why things like, meeting a friend for a coffee during the day, going for a quiet demi in the evening and meeting friends far a picnic in a park is so popular in Paris.
  • The restaurant is your kitchen and dining room
  • The café's and bars are your living room
  • The public park is your back garden
  • Your apartment is your bedroom
Parks in Paris act like everyone's shared back gardens, on a sunny day you will see literally hundreds of people of all different ages, races, social classes and  occupations appearing in their droves to benefit or some sunshine and open space. Where as parks and playgrounds in Ireland can be a realm left to mainly bums and drunken teenagers, in Paris they become very much a family affair with lots of children actually playing in them, teenagers and adults practising their dancing, fitness enthusiasts doing yoga and capoera, people juggling,  musicians strumming guitars, people reading and sunbathing  and friends picnicking. 
photo was taken when leaving around 9 so many people had left
Parc de la Villette was very busy when I arrived but still had acres of space compared to the nearly shoulder to shoulder experience you can get in some other parks. It is a great park mainly due it its large size and variety of spaces, also it seemed to be lacking many of the unsavoury characters which are usually present in more central parks and spaces that are more frequented by RER lines and tourists.

If you are living or even just visiting Paris I would recommend taking some time out and check out the canal for a walk and lunch and then go for a relax in the park de la Villette or one of Paris's many other parks. With the weather only set to improve it is definitely time to get your picnic blanket washed, buy a set of plastic dish ware and “en profitez”.

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