I was lucky last week to be in Paris for the inauguration of the new pedestrianised road by the River Seine called Les Berges de Siene. It’s similar to the pedestrianised area by the South Bank in London but with a bit of French flair.
I took a walk in the early morning the day after it opened. The promenade was quiet and peaceful except for the sounds of the boats on the river. The occasional cyclist or runner would go by. The promenade runs from the Royal and Alma bridges. At the Musee D’orsay, there are steps forming an amphitheatre which can seat 600 people.
The promenade has some pretty borders of wild flowers which soften the harsh retaining wall of the road above. Bicycles are available to rent (the Parisian equivalent of London’s Boris Bikes). The eco-friendly design is also apparent in the benches which are chunky planks from renewable sources. The layout of the benches is very cool and artistic in itself.
In addition to the borders, there are 4 small urban gardens, each inspired by a notable works of art hanging in Parisian museums. These works are Monet’s Water Lilies, Kandinsky’s Circle in Circle, Picasso’s Woman in a Red Armchair and Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.
There are lots of cafes and places to sit. It’s definitely a place you can linger and hang out. Conveniently located between some major tourist attractions, I can see the river walk being a popular place for a rest, a snack and to soak in Parisian atmosphere.
I particularly like that the designers have thought of children. It’s difficult to sit and to enjoy the view when you’re children are restless. On the river walk, however, lots of games have been painted onto the ground. My children could spend easily spend an hour following the lines for the tangled rope or trying to work out the maze. In addition, there are plenty of tables scattered around which have game boards built onto them, such as for Ludo, checkers etc. There is also a slate wall which children can draw on. (I can only hope that graffiti artists also contain themselves to the slate wall!)
There’s also a cultural element. Award-winning international photojournalist, Reza, has large-format placards of some of his works on exhibit. Signs in both French and English explain the story behind each photograph.
For Parisians (or keen tourists), sporting facilities such as a climbing wall and and a fitness trail are available. There will also be a skateboard park. Continuing on with the industrial element of the design, shipping containers are spread around which have been upcycled to be quite cool venues. Some are available for parties or other events. The idea is that Parisians who don’t have a terrace have access to some green space for an event or just to sit in the sun.
The promenade was pristine when I went because it had just been opened by the Mayor of Paris. I really hope they keep it clean and graffiti-less because it really is beautiful. And, I hope they make all the signs bilingual!
You can find Les Berges on Facebook as well.