While La Petite Ceinture literally translates as “The Little Belt,” it actually refers to the abandoned rail line that circles the city.
This past weekend, as part of “Sustainable Development Week” in Paris, the Association Espaces led small group tours along the Petite Ceinture. Rumor has it that this little “beltway” will finally be turned into a nature trail soon.
The cold, rain (and sometimes hail!) kept me from going on the walk (plus the fact that I hadn’t signed up in advance). But that’s ok. I already have a key to the Petite Ceinture!
Yes, it’s true. You see, Jerome’s atelier is part of a converted train station in the 20th. The Petite Ceinture runs just above. We’d explored portions of this hidden wonder before he found his atelier, but it’s certainly nice having such easy access now.
Jerome has scaled walls before to explore the Petite Ceinture. I’m not quite that committed. My first experience was a simple (big) step up near Porte Doree in the 12th. You won’t see “keep out” signs posted, but the Petite Ceinture is not exactly, ahem, *open* to the public. (Meaning, we’re not technically supposed to go snooping around here – call me a rebel).
Keep your eyes peeled for these tantalizing tracks from a bygone era. You can spot them near Buttes Chaumont Park or as you sip cocktails at Philippe Starck’s design hotel Mama Shelter. Really, just look up, down, and around when touring the outer arrondissements and you might start to see them everywhere.
This weekend’s walk covered the portion around the 15th, a part of the rail line I haven’t had the pleasure yet to explore. From a few photos I’ve seen of that area, I can see why local activists are angling for a nature trail. Apparently there are 200 species of flora and fauna to be found.
I’m familiar with the more urban parts: ancient tracks overrun by weeds, tags and graffiti on whatever walls can be found. I love the proximity to the street in some areas – close enough that you can see the details of life as it happens. Far enough that you feel almost invisible, like you’re surveying the city in secret.
The Petite Ceinture offers a new perspective; Paris autrement.
Have you explored the Petite Ceinture? Know any access points? Happy to hear about plans to make it public – or a bit sad that the secret will soon be out?