Paris, from Railway to Trail-way: A Walk Along an Avenue Verte

Paris, like any major European city, never fails to surprise and delight. On a recent trip to the Mus̩e Marmottan (which has the largest collection in the World of paintings by Claude Monet Рincluding 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.

Balzac’s house, where he lived in the 1840s.

Not even a mile long, the ‘green corridor’ runs from the Porte d’Auteuil metro station (on the Boulevard Montmorency) to the Boulevard de Beauséjour 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 Musée 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 Musée Marmottan, is to visit the Musée du Vin and the French writer Balzac’s house, which are all within walking distance of La Muette metro station.

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About Thomas Dowson

Hello, I am Thomas Dowson - a freelance writer and archaeologist living in Normandy, France. My field of expertise is prehistoric art - such as the cave paintings in the Dordogne and South Africa. But I am becoming passionately interested in France more generally, and Normandy in particular, and what this country and one of its very well known regions has to offer people with all sorts of tastes and desires. In 2005 I exchanged a university archaeology lecture room for a Bed & Breakfast in Normandy. More recently I started the Archaeology Travel website; sharing my expertise and love of archaeology and travel with others who also want to explore the many different pasts around the World.