Paris, like any major European city, never fails to surprise and delight. On a recent trip to the MusÃ©e Marmottan (which has the largest collection in the World of paintings by Claude Monet – including the painting that gave rise to the term Impressionism), I all but stumbled upon a dis-used railway line that is now a small, natural haven quite close to the city centre and not that far from the Eiffel Tower.
Not even a mile long, the ‘green corridor’ runs from the Porte d’Auteuil metro station (on the Boulevard Montmorency) to the Boulevard de BeausÃ©jour just before the Restaurant La Gare (nearest metro, La Muette), the former station of Passy-La Muette. It was part of what was known of as ‘la Petite Ceinture’ (the small belt), a passenger and goods railway line that once circled Paris on its rural outskirts. It was built in the 1850s when the likes of Passy was a rural village and the MusÃ©e Marmottan was then a country hunting lodge. With the encroaching city, little by little various sections of the line closed down until the last remaining functioning section was closed in 1985. And in 1997 a group of volunteers convinced the city authorities to turn the section into an ‘avenue verte’, and it even has quite a quaint website. Since this section opened as a nature trail there are other volunteer groups working to turn other sections of la Petite Ceinture into designated trails.
This small tract of ‘la Petite Ceinture’ has in just over a decade become as close to a wilderness as you can get in the centre of Paris. It is now overgrown with trees, and according to informative notices along the way it is now home to some 200 species of plants, birds and butterflies, most of which are not to be found elsewhere in the city.
Besides being a great, albeit short, walk, there are a number of Paris attractions in the vicinity. For anyone visiting Paris, my Europe travel tip, besides not missing the MusÃ©e Marmottan, is to visit the MusÃ©e du Vin and the French writer Balzac’s house, which are all within walking distance of La Muette metro station.