It took me exactly 438 days (a little over 14 months) to get the chance to take photos of a view that had enchanted me from the moment I first saw it. A week ago, I was passing through Paris on my way to my Five-Year MBA Reunion. Although I had less than 24 hours to spend in that beautiful city, I also had a special mission to accomplish.
In March 2011, I was passing through Paris on a business trip. I had seen most of Paris on previous trips and was looking for something new and unusual. My aunt — who is one of the best connoisseurs of Paris that I have ever encountered in my life — suggested that I check out a little known place in the 20th Arrondissement, called Parc de Belleville. I went there with very low expectations, and immediately fell in love with the magnificent and unusual view of Paris I could see from there. Unfortunately, I only had my work Blackberry on me at the time and the photo I took with it looked miserable at best. Ever since then, I had been thinking about going back to that place — armed with a good camera. Now, finally the opportunity to accomplish that had arisen.
The first thing that strikes a visitor to Parc de Belleville is the dramatic and unusual perspective that the location offers for seeing Paris’s key landmarks. The moment you make this sudden turn off the busy Rue des Pyrénées, and you go down the steep stairs of the tiny Rue Levert, you enter a completely different world. A world where the clock seems to have stopped long time ago, and everything seems quieter and more laid back.
You continue on the slightly bending Rue des Envierges, and after a few minutes walk, you finally get your first glimpse of the magnificent view. And quite a view it is, indeed! The quaint café at the corner of the street, just before the park begins, sports one of the least-appreciated but beautiful vistas of Paris. If only I could spend all my sunny mornings sitting at an outdoor table in this café, drinking nice Parisian coffee and eating a croissant — just like that woman in the photo below… Then, I would feel like a truly blessed person!
If you’re still not fully convinced, take a look at the following panorama. When was the last time you could see Paris in that way, while sitting for free at a bench in a public park?
A Place to Reminisce and Simultaneously a Place to Socialize
In addition to the beautiful and unique views of the entire central Paris, Parc de Belleville offers the chance to reminisce reclusively and engage in active social behavior at one and the same time.
On the one hand, the park sports a picturesque and very romantic staired path, covered by a canopy of trees. That path is so isolated that you can spend hours there, just sitting at the stairs, reading a book, without even noticing the young kids playing joyfully just meters away out in the open green.
On the other hand, the park’s vast stretches of green offer the perfect spot to sun bathe on a nice summer day, or listen to the occasional art decadent playing intricate jazz solos on his Spanish guitar.
One other thing I find very interesting about Parc de Belleville is that unlike most other parks who are flat and sprawling, this one is intricately terraced into several levels. The view and the overall look and feel of the park change as you descend down any of the three main paths. Thus, while the park is much smaller than most other public parks in Paris, it offers an uncontested level of diversity.
Technology Meets Nature
Finally, the park represents a remarkable juxtaposition of the latest in environmentally friendly technology and beautiful nature. At the peak of the park, near the Café La Mer à Boire (which I depicted earlier in the post), stands an eerie looking concrete building, called La Maison de l’Air (which literally translates into The House of Air). Two giant wind turbines sit atop that building — an attestation of Paris’s commitment to urban wind power production experiments.
Aside from the futuristic wind installation, La Maison de l’Air offers a non-conventional permanent exhibition that focuses on describing the various qualities and uses of air in a fun way for adults and kids alike.
Thus, after 14 months of waiting, I finally managed to return to Parc de Belleville and take the much coveted photo of the Eiffel Tower from that interesting and unusual perspective. But in addition to the cool photos, I had discovered a great place to relax on a sunny and warm day in Paris, and had learned about the challenges of producing energy through sustainable sources in the heart of a big metropolis.
To wrap up, here is yet one more view of the Eiffel Tower that you can bet your typical tourist would not have in their photo album.
I hope you enjoyed travelling (albeit virtually) with me to Parc de Belleville. Do you have your own reclusive, unique and little known favorite place in any big city? Would you care to share your experiences?
P.S. In case you were curious what the original photo I took 14 months ago looked like and why I was not satisfied with that, take a look at the picture below. I think you’ll agree it was worth going back with a real camera and documenting that magnificent view in a much better and realistic way.