Sunday, August 4

I take a walking tour of the southern end of Canal Saint-Martin, the Promenade Plantée, and the 12th arrondissement.

Back to work today. More grammar homework, vocabulary to memorize about leisure activities and sports, and "une rédaction" (essay) on "The last time that I felt happy". 180-200 words (no more, no less), on a single sheet of paper. It's supposed to be "une histoire d'amour" (a love story). We have to start off by setting a scene using the imparfait, then switch to the passé composé to describe a sequence of actions and events.

I am so lucky. In my first year French class back in 2006-7, our final writing assignment was very similar, "A love story at University." I found it on my computer! It was too long, so I had to cut big sections to get it down to the right length. I still have some editing and polishing and grammar checking to do, but it's nearly finished.

Thanks to my good luck with the essay, I'm off on one of my walking tours, to see Canal Saint-Martin and the Promenade Plantée.

I walked along the southern portion of Canal Saint-Martin from the river north to Place de la Bastille. I have not yet visited the northern section, but plan to some day soon. That's where much of the film "Amélie" was set. Between the southern and northern sections the canal runs underground.

I walked half of the the Promenade Plantée, an elevated park that's built on top of an old railroad line. It's 4.7 km long (about 2.9 mi) and runs from Opéra Bastille to the eastern edge of Paris. The park itself is beautiful, and there are some good views from that high up. It seems to be very popular for jogging, based on the people I saw up there today. It appears in the film Before Sunset with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy.

I left the park at the point where it descends down to ground level after the Jardin de Reuilly and then goes through a mall area. Then I wandered around the 12th, a right bank neighborhood that is definitely working class. Saw some very sad cardboard shacks under railroad tracks with homeless people ("clochards") living in them and some of the less pretty parts of Paris. Finally ended up in an area called Bercy near the Gare de Lyon and took the métro back home.

When you get out of central Paris you sometimes begin to feel like you could be in any modern city. Parts of the 12th where I wandered today look a bit like parts of Chicago, good parts and bad parts, but don't look at all like the old central parts of Paris. For example, I saw lots of unremarkable modern apartment blocks that could have been anywhere. This is to be expected.

It was a good long walk but a very nice one on a perfect day, starting at my apartment, up over the river, up the Canal Saint-Martin to Place de la Bastille, then along the Promenade Plantée, then a wander through the 12th. All parts of Paris I hadn't seen before.

Then a long nap, with strange dreams in French about homework that isn't real and I don't have to do (there's enough of the real kind!) Now I'm up again, drinking wine, eating chocolates, and doing more homework. It's a rough life here, I tell you.

Over 6 weeks without having been in a car even once. A much-too-civilized way to live.

I'm sad right now because my trip is half over. Isn't that silly? I've noticed that my classmates are already starting to talk about what they're going to be doing "after Paris". No, I don't want "after"!

The Seine looked particularly lovely this morning. There's a few sunbathers over on the tip of Îsle St-Louis.

Canal Saint-Martin.

Canal Saint-Martin.

Canal Saint-Martin.

Canal Saint-Martin.

Canal Saint-Martin.

Canal Saint-Martin.

Place de la Bastille.

The modern opera house by Place de la Bastille.

The modern opera house by Place de la Bastille.

Promenade Plantée. Sat on a bench for a while and waited until all the people were gone for a moment so I could take this picture. It doesn't feel right to take pictures of strangers unless they're part of a big crowd.

A view from Promenade Plantée.

Promenade Plantée.

Railroad tracks in the 12th arrondissement.