Paris Mayor Betrand Delanoë has been a trailblazer for several grand-scale urban projects during his mandate, but none annoyed me more than Les Berges, inaugurated earlier this year. To bring his 35 million euro
Delanoë has always been quite vocal of his dislike of cars in the capital. Other projects he spearheaded include the conversion of car lanes into bus and bike lanes, as well as the Velib', Paris' bike-scheme. His dream is to have a car-free Paris, a dream that irritates France's automotive industry for obvious reasons. While he would never say there is a connection, PSA (Peugeot- Citroën) is at this time forced to close down their plant in Aulnay, putting 3,000 workers on the unemployment rolls. So while it's good fun to rent a bike, or stroll along Les Berges during the 50 (and that's optimistic) rainfree days we have each year, those who backed Delanoë's projects should not now be crying that their payroll contributions to the unemployment coffers are increasing.
It isn't just that my formerly-speedy commute has been compromised by this urban promenade space. What irritates me is that Les Berges is yet another of those big, shiny, show-offy projects that has been rolled out with masses of fanfare, but that will undoubtedly fall into shambles in a few years. Look at what happened when they launced Velib in 2007: loads of press about how Paris will be the new Amsterdam, people will leave their cars at home and take up biking, and we will all be one big happy family of Lance Armstrongs. Six years later, 40% of the bikes have been either stolen or vandalized, and little funds are allocated to maintain the bikes that still have a seat on them. It is well-known that Paris has a habit of striking a budget line for any project created by a former government. I have no doubt that Les Berges will one day be a mess of splinters and grafitti-ed furnishings, so I urge you to go and see it now while this project enjoys its glory days.
This is where I used to exit the expressway at the Pont de l'Alma. Now a pedestrian path.
This is cool. A series of floating gardens/lounging areas that were floated down the Seine from Le Havre (where they were constructed) and tethered. They move gently with the current of the river, which is kind of a surprise when you assume you are stepping out onto a fixed platform.
There are these little squares of greenery bobbing up and down next to the five platforms.
Just one of the lounging areas (note no sun) moving back and forth with the water. The guy in the tie is a security agent. And working on a Sunday!!!! Call the labor union!!!!
Here's another lounging area. You can't see it in the photo, but the blocks become greener in tint as they descend towards the river, to become "one with the water." Only France can wax philosophical about concrete seating.
Hooray! Something is handicapped-accessible here!
They reused the wood from the containers that carried the stuff down from Le Havre for seating (or stretching) all along the promenade.
This zone, le verger (orchard), was awesome. It was funded not by my taxes but in partnership with a seed company, Truffaut. You can pick leaves and flowers and then make yourself a hot herbal tea using a solar device.
All the pots are tagged so you don't inadvertantly pick marijuana or something like that. Here we have some giant rhubarb and some prehistoric plant that I also saw at The Grove Shopping Center in LA last summer.
|I loved the tags|
You can do yoga class here, too. Who would do yoga with a scarf draped so gracefully around the neck? A Parisian!
There are two mind-blowing elements in this photo, elements that go against the cultural grain. The first is the free water. The second is the restrooms.
Not only are there restrooms, but there is a handicapped restroom. Unbelievable.
Here's a dining option along the promenade. The French are just getting into food trucks (although the government is working hard to block the enterpreneurs' selling permits) and they really like Airstream trailers. For some reason this eatery is called "The Faust." Maybe eating there requires one to make a Faustian bargain.
Faust certainly doesn't offer a lot of choices.
There's a board game area . And this one has a Sunday worker, too! This gives me an idea: perhaps all the salespeople who lost their jobs when the union forced Castorama and Leroy Merlin (France's Home Depots) to close on Sundays could be reconverted to cleaning people for the Berges, because for some suspicious reason, the workers here are allowed to hold jobs on Sunday. I suspect Delanoë paid off the CGT labor union.