It Can Only Be April in Paris

A green allée in the park
The green just goes on and on, and so does the rain.

Showers in the Spacy Parc de Saint Cloud

Paris:- Friday, 25. April 1997:- When I could have been going through shops looking for new half-priced clothing, or hanging around warm, well-lit art galleries, I am instead trudging through the rain in the Parc de Saint Cloud.

This is the first rain since I don't know how long and the park looks like it was painted green by Antonini for 'Blow Up,' and it is not a long way until the distance is blurred by mist. There are very few people in the park and they look as lost as I am in this unmapped 450 hectare space of green between Sévres and Saint Cloud, on the height above the Seine.

It started innocently enough with me paying a visit to the Sévres city hall to get an administrative paper. I rode the métro down to the Pont de Sévres and took the bus 171 across the Seine.

At the busstop, I also noted that two métro tickets and this bus will get you all the way to Versailles, and along the way you will get to see Chaville and Viroflay. One ticket gets you across the bridge, and the first stop is for the National Porcelain Factory at the lower end of the park.

After getting my paper I was trying to make up my mind about which route to take back. Besides retracing my arrival route, I figured I had two other choices - and there would be even more if I had felt like going to Montparnasse.

Sévres is in sort of a gully with the route national 10 running through it. Either direction from this road is uphill - either easterly to Meudon, or westerly, up to the park. Either way, it's fairly steep.

The main road towards the bridge, and the métro on the other side, is no particular attraction and I got sucked into the rue Brancas. This starts off north, quickly turns to north-east, loops nearly double and heads west, climbing all the while.

In pre-war - pre-first, pre-second - suburbs, no two houses Misty view of Paris are alike and a lot here were weekend places, and up a bit, with views. Some of the architecture is plain and some is quite eccentric and it is easy to get stopped to look these things over.

The sign says, 'Danger - Do Not Walk on the Ice.'

I am pretty sure I am going to the park, but I am pretty sure the westerly-heading rue Brancas is not, so I turn right into the rue Colas and this does get me into the park - through a plain steel door in an old stone wall. There is no map and since there is no sun for direction, I set out by intuition.

At the beginning, if worst came to worst, I knew I could get to the lower end of the park and from there to Saint Cloud where I could find a train station. But it is a big park, with these big wide allées and if you are on the wrong one going the wrong way, you could go a long ways before finding out you were not where you wanted to be, and then you could go another long way to get straightened out. Plus, there are no other strollers around to ask for directions.

Green, green and layers of green and after deciding not to try the 'Lanterne' or the 'Versailles' crossroads - they are not signposted - my 'lost-in-the-forest' straight-ahead direction brings me to the 'Rond Point des 24 Jets,' which is a medium-sized pool that appears to have about eight jets.

These only operate in September, and when I lived in nearby Meudon, I was always in Spain then - so I've never seen them jetting or whatever it is they do. I always thought they were '21' jets anyway, but my reference says 24. There is a café with a terrace here under the trees, but it is closed today.

From here, straight east takes you down to the Grand Cascade and the lower park, and Paris is in the misty distance. Straight ahead should take me to Saint Cloud, but I think there may be no crossing at the train line.

Across from the first café, there are two others. One is modest and closed and the other is bigger and open. It is called the Grange aux Ecureuils, and it even has customers sitting outside, not squirrels. Inside, it has no bar so I do not have a café. The map near this resto-garden tells me to head for the Grande Gerbe, which is another round pool with jets.

I see no joggers. The people density can not be more than one to a hectare, and these are just ordinary walkers. It is raining a little harder all the time, but it is only just making it into the 'true' rain category so I am not getting too wet walking away from the cover of the trees.

Cars circulate inside the park and local drivers know how to use the routes though it as shortcuts with little traffic, but many speed-bumps. A big Peugeot goes by with German plates and a little later it comes back the other way. A police van slowly cruises by. A group of plastic-textiled oldies comes along and I wonder from where.

There are probably different sorts of trees, but besides a lot of them being chestnut, I don't know what they are except they are not evergreens. At this time of year, and despite the recent long dry period, the leaves are extra green in the rain and with the heavy shadows A park restaurant seem a bit sinister, in their straight-arrow ranks along the equally straight allées, with the wide grass meadows in the middle.

From a disance, the yellow lamps show that the Grange aux Ecureuils is open.

In the rain, they are probably more tolerable than in bright sunshine; except when it is bright you can often see the light of distant allées through the trees - the park was one of Mr. Bonaparte's favorites, in his post-citizen days, and I suppose he liked his trees to be on parade.

Somewhere shortly after the Grande Gerbe I run off my reference, and the allée I'm following parallels the roaring autoroute to the north. Further along, my train line swoops by in a big curve, followed by a reverse curve over the autoroute, and somewhere beyond I'll find my station - the one after Saint Cloud. Helicopters are over the autoroute in low cloud and they add to the decibel-level.

On the left there is a long and high wall and I hear tennis balls popping, at the Stade Français. Another one of these really descriptive names. Before Bonaparte, in the 17th century, Le Notre laid out the park; and I wonder if his wasn't a nickname. Maybe his real name was Louis but the boss was called that, so he was simply called 'Our Guy.'

This is as about as well as I can do in the thinking department in today's green conditions. In nicer weather the park's main attractions are its undulating size, its views and its restaurant-canteens under the trees. At certain times of the year, rides and attractions are installed in the lower The A13 autoroute part of the park where it must be part of the level Seine bank. For non-climbers, the easiest access is from Saint Cloud, or from beside the porcelain factory at the Pont de Sévres.

The Autoroute de l'Ouest, speedbahn to the Normandy coast.

One of the nicest outdoor restaurants is a little place in a large field on the east side. Its view is of the treed west side of Meudon, across the gulch of downtown Sévres.

The view is so good that you almost won't notice the helicopters watching the nationale 110 that climbs up between Sévres and Meudon, or the helicopters that use the same route from Paris' heliport up at the Quai d'Issy, to the government field at Villacoublay or to Orly or who knows where.

Not much past the tennis, the allée I'm on leans to the left while a smaller part goes straight, then loops right to cross the autoroute and the rail line, and the station of Garches is right there, on the line from Saint-Lazare.

Entry to the park is free, but there is some nominal charge for cars, if you come in by way of Sévres, and there is plenty of parking in the park. Some people bring their cars so they can have picnics in them. In the rain, of course.


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