Sunday, 6 July 2008

Bois de Boulogne

Hi Rachel,

Started at Ballard in the extreme south-west of Paris. I approached the Périphérique at Porte de Sèvres, and then retreated back as there was no walkable road following the motorway. I had to walk around the ‘Marine Nationales Services Techniques des Constructions Navels’ and across the road was the ‘Armee de l’Air Services Techniques’. Defence seems appropriate for the edge of the city, and hints back to the city walls. It was all high security, and there were some no photo signs.

Then I walked to Pont du Gariliano, crossing the Seine. The next bridge down was the Périphérique bridge, and there was a great view of it. With blue hills behind in the hazy sun, it looked like a scene from a postcard, or car advertisement.

On the other side I found myself in the posh 16ar and headed down to Porte St-Cloud, to follow the route of the Périphérique as much as possible. There was a big roundabout at the Porte with a modern church. Walked over Périphérique footbridge. Périphérique seems more incongruous here, next to more affluent parts of the city, but it is also less intrusive, buried a little below the level of the city.

Across the bridge was Boulogne Billancourt. Following the road I headed up towards the Bois. There are 4 sports stadiums, one after another including the 70’s Paris Saint-Germain grounds, and the 30’s Stade Geo Andre, with the Périphérique now running underneath. The stadiums are bold examples of sports architecture from different periods. It seems to be a pattern to utilize space on the edge of the city in this way.

There was a bridge over the Périphérique again at the start of the Bois de Boulogne. Now in the Bois I rest for a few minutes from the intense sunshine. B wakes up and we continue at his pace. He is quite fascinated by looking at the Périphérique as it keeps popping up and then retreating while we walk through the Bois.

The Bois is huge enough to have long periods of time walking without encountering other people. We go round the Hippodrome d’Auteuil, a huge horse racing track, then with B ready for some playground action we turned in to Porte de Passy.

The walk was a big contrast to going east from Le Parc Bercy. There are some hints that you are on the edge of the city, but the Banlieue are exclusive desirable areas here. I couldn’t imagine the shanty dwellings or gypsy settlements going unnoticed and undisturbed.

There is also not the sense that the Périphérique creates a big no-go space. Much of it is underground and is not allowed to dominate the character of the area as it does elsewhere.