A Long Tour

photo: chairs, shadows, birds, basin in tuileries

Parisians and visitors basking in this season
in the Tuileries.

A Perfect Season for It

Paris:- Friday, 26. October 2001:- The weather this month has confounded the forecasters. For users it hasn't been too bad, because many days advertised with mediocre meteorological predictions have turned out to be pretty good.

Looking back over the month I find that adding up my various 'tours' - although taken one at a time - they combine to form a nearly unbroken geographical sequence through Paris.

On account of some administrative boggle I have to get straightened out, I planned no feature article for this week. But, I guess the warmth around me has speeded up my brain a bit, which has allowed me to arrive at the idea of stringing my 'tours' together.

I took in the treed section of the Champs-Elysées early in the month, the areas around thephoto: statues, loungers, tuileries Hôtel de Ville and the Ile Saint-Louis, and I was in the Luxembourg gardens a couple of times. Last week I took a lengthwise stroll through the Tuileries, from Concorde to the Louvre's Pyramid.

Paris parks guarantee more basking places than Paris' café terraces.

The notion is that you can wander through the centre of Paris for about 3.5 kilometres without walking on asphalt or concrete, walking mostly 'in nature,' with some short passages over stone.

This is either from the Rond-Point of the Champs-Elysées to the Jardin des Plantes near the Gare d'Austerlitz or the other way around.

The Place de la Concorde is counted as a 'stone' area, plus the Pont Neuf, and the part of the Ile de la Cité between the Place Dauphine and Notre Dame is considered as 'stone' too. Although the Ile Saint-Louis is all stone, walking along any of its quays, counts as 'park,' because of the riverside trees and the Seine.

Sun-browned leaves are falling off the trees now, but these are in a minority compared to all the leaves that are still green and on the trees. In spots where the sun hits and the trees or plants are the right types, the leaves are showing colors rarely seen in Paris.

It was early in the month that I did the stretch from Rond-Point to the Place de la Concorde. This can be done entirelyphoto: tuileries fountain, louvre under the trees and away from the traffic-infested Champs-Elysées. On the north side it is possible to get even further away by taking the paths in the park-like area along the Avenue Gabriel, but it might be too park-like for some and under the trees is good if not better.

At the Tuileries' 'round' pool, with a bit of the Louvre behind.

On the day I did it, the vast stone expanse of the Place de la Concorde became the end of the 'tour,' except for a good gaze at the operating fountain which was throwing water around like a spouting whale.

Once across this stone place there is the long stretch of the Tuileries. This has many features. There are higher areas near Concorde and along the Seine side, where you can find longer views. Under the trees there are short views, mixed with green open spaces, for variety.

There are the two big basins, in their wide places, with lots of chairs and lots of open sky to provide light. There are at least four snack cafés with their open terraces under the trees, and there are a few - not many - ice cream or sorbet vendors. There are many reasons not to get any further than finding a place to park in the Tuileries.

But, for a 'tour' I would keep going - past the Carrousel's smaller Arc de Triomphe and into the Louvre's Cour Napoléon. This would be just to see if the Louvre workers are on strike, and if they are, to see if visitors are getting in anyway.

Because of security measures you can't continue into the Cour Carrée from the Cour Napoléon. You can go out through the main entry and go along the Rue de Rivoli, and then pass from north to south through the Cour Carée. Or you can back out of the Cour Napoléon, and take the exit towards the Pont de Carrousel.

From the Quai du Louvre you can descend to the river and come up to street level again near the Pont des Arts and take the stone sidewalk past the bouquinistes to the Pont Neuf. Just after a bit more than halfwayphoto: lines of trees in tuileries across it, turn left and go into the treed Place Dauphine.

What follows, on the Quai des Orfévres and the Quai du Marché Neuf, is Ile de la Cité 'city,' but without too much traffic. Another way to do it would be to leave the Place Dauphine and follow the island's northern Quai de l'Horloge and Quai de la Corse, to the plant market in the Place Louis-Lépine.

In the centre of Paris, in the solitude of the Tuileries garden.

Then it's a block to the Parvis in front of Notre Dame. If you pass on the cathedral's south side, it is almost park-like, as is the Square Jean-XXIII and the triangular Square de l'Ile-de-France behind it.

The Pont Saint-Louis, which provides a crossing from the Ile de la Cité to the Ile Saint-Louis, is functional rather than decorative - but it is closed to traffic so you can use all of it.

Either of the quays running around the Ile Saint-Louis are stone, although the north side is usually in shadow. You can get right down to the river level too most of the way if you want to escape from the island's small amount of traffic.

You can cross to the left bank by way of the Pont de la Tournelle or the Pont de Sully. Once on the left bank, you can drop down to the river level again, and continue eastward towards the 'Square' Tino Rossi, which is a long strip of park right beside the Seine.

Just before the Pont d'Austerlitz take the stairs or driveway back up to the road level of the Quai Saint-Bernard, and you will find the Jardin des Plantes is right across the street.

As its names implies, it is full of flowers, plants and trees. There is also a tidy zoo, plus the naturalphoto: cafe in tuileries history museum complex. In the garden's southwest corner there is a steep hill called the 'Maze' and this is within an area of serious trees, some of which have names.

One of the Tuileries four outdoor cafés.

Doing this whole tour - from the Jardin des Plantes to the Rond-Point, or in reverse - would be a fair walk if done all at once. But the point still is, the idea of the possibility of being able to cross a large stretch of central Paris, mostly through park-like settings.

As a practical idea, I tend to think there are so many things to see along the way - such as a temporary exhibition in the Jeu de Paume in the Tuileries - I kind of doubt it is worth trying to do unless you are some sort of marathoner.

But, starting early with good shoes, and with some consideration for food and drink pauses, it is possible to do it. With only a few stones to walk over, with only a few sets of traffic lights to wait for, central Paris really has a long, sleeve of a park.

And, this year, for the moment anyway, Paris also seems to be having a brilliant 'Indian Summer' - which makes taking in all of its parks a greater pleasure than ever.

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