Saturday, August 8, 2009


For years, I had been reticent to explore outside the arrondissements that were not centrally located. I had everything I needed in the heart of Paris and didn't deem it necessary to venture out any further. Besides, I had been warned that districts like the 19th had a 'bad' element and one had
to be careful there. So, the many times I visited Paris I made sure to avoid it all together.

Recently, however, I accepted a house-sitting position here in the 19th. When I first received the initial email from the homeowner, I gulped at the prospect of living there for a few weeks. But, the woman seemed nice and I decided to at least meet with her.

I made certain our rendez-vous was during the day in case all I had heard about this part of town was correct. I am glad to report that what I saw was a delightful neighborhood near Place du Colonial Fabien which was brimming with cafés, restaurants and fruit and vegetable shops. It looked just like the rest of Paris and I felt right at home here. I later read that this area is an up and coming district where professionals are moving in and refurbishing a once run down part of town. That made sense considering what I had seen on my walk. All the better for me.

I climbed the five flights to the apartment and was greeted at the door by the amiable woman I spoke with on the phone. As she gave me a tour of her home, I was grateful she contacted me, for her apartment was the loveliest I had seen in Paris to date. It was decorated much like a charming bed and breakfast would be, yet the price was a whole lot better.  Spending time with her cat was my fee.  That certainly was easy enough. When she offered it to me for three weeks, I could barely contain my enthusiasm.

On the first day I arrived I wanted to take advantage of seeing any interesting sites in the district while I was here...the internet to the rescue! No, this area doesn't have the typical tourist destinations such as Notre Dame or the Eifel Tower, but at its heart rests two of the most popular parks in Paris—the Parc des Buttes Chaumont and the Parc de la Villette.

The former was closer to my temporary home, so I ventured there first. Situated amongst one of the few sets of rolling hills in Paris, trees and plant life adorn this incredible park. You will feel as though you left Paris and stepped into The Garden of Eden. Amble up to the highest peak and see the spectacular cityscape to remind yourself that you are still indeed in an urban environment.

The sights and sounds of the different waterfalls set amid breathtaking rock formations bring a sense of tranquility to the senses. The alluring shades of colors from the flowers surrounded by the lush greens from the leaves will connect you with nature immediately. One mustn't forget the architecture of the bridges, as well, reminding you that man did contribute to this beauty.

At any hour during daylight, the park will be filled with joggers, meditators, frisbee throwers and kids playing in one of the playgrounds. Plus, there will be an abundance of people meandering through the park on a casual stroll, while many others will be taking advantage of soaking in the sun on one of the few lawns in Paris where one is allowed to do so. Don't be surprised if you catch a glimpse of couples of all ages sharing a passionate kiss—this is Paris after all! There is even an outdoor restaurant-bar where you can grab a quick drink or have a relaxing meal while surrounded by all this beauty.

Parc de la Villette offers a totally different experience. It's sprawling flat land covered with grass is a picnic-er and soccer player's delight. One can take a long walk on the tree-lined path which offers much needed shade on a hot August day.

Located in the front of the park is a plethora of contemporary buildings which offers a host of entertainments. From the Cité des Sciences, which is an interactive museum perfect for children, to the Cité des Musique—a musical museum, media center as well as a place to hold concerts among other things. If movies are more your thing, not to worry, a large movie theater is awaiting your arrival. With so much to do, you certainly won't be bored.

While most tourists won't venture out of the centrally located arrondissements, why not take a chance and go where the French go. Whether you are looking for something to do with the children, or simply want a romantic getaway for two, one of these parks will suit your needs nicely.

Thank you for reading and bonne journée!