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THE PETITE CEINTURE
A TOUR OF PARIS BY BIKEParis
Parc des Buttes Chaumont
+ 33 (0) 142000045
Built by Louis Philippe along the ramparts of Paris, this abandoned railway remains intact and separates the capital of France from the rest of the world.
A slice of history
Most Parisians stumble upon the numerous magnificent construction works (viaducts, archways, railway stations, trenches, etc.) that dot the Petite Ceinture. Tourists are often unaware of their very existence, given the extent to which this tentacular city has absorbed and buried the old railway. Yet, up until 1934, millions of passengers travelled this line and during the Nazi occupation of Paris in 1944, its cargo trains came under attack by the French Resistance.
The smart districts of Paris
The Vélib’ bike-sharing service is perfect for exploring the Petite Ceinture. Because it's practical, there's certainly no need to complete an entire loop and the Paris Metro, which has replaced the old trains, is never far off. First, pedal through the smart districts, with the magnificent townhouses along Avenue Henri Martin, Gare de Passy, which has been transformed into a trendy restaurant, Allée de Longchamp, Boulevard Flandrin and Gare de l'Avenue Foch.
"Rough and ready" Paris
To the east of Paris awaits a whole other world, with its old working-class neighbourhoods around Gare de Charonne (now a rock n' roll bar and concert hall), the Père Lachaise cemetery and the Ménilmontant district. The Parc des Buttes Chaumont makes for a pleasant destination and you could stop at Rosa Bonheur for a quick bite to eat while enjoying the peace and quiet, not to mention the splendid view of Paris.
This railway is best explored in sections, according to your mood, revealing surprising treasures here and there, far from the beaten tourist track. One never tires of this tour of Parisian history.
Comfortable in working-class neighbourhoods and the tonier areas of Paris, I never get tired of rediscovering this timeless city. The Sex Pistols set the pace when I was younger. New technologies fill my working days now. My little extra: discovering fine eating spots around the capital for romantic dinners!