Sunday, August 06, 2017

Peace on the Promenade Pereire

The Arc de Triomphe, from the avenue de la Grande Armee.
August 6, 2017 – Maps inspire many of our walks in Paris.  In particular, “L’Indispensable,” what I call the “book of maps,” is my indispensable reference.

I no longer take the book of maps with me on our walks.  I simply peruse it in the apartment, settle upon a walk in a particular area, map it out in my head, and, if it is complex, I make an ordered list of metro stations and streets on a small slip of paper which I stuff in a pocket or my camera bag.

We know Paris well enough that if we stray from the planned route, we can always find our way.  We don’t get lost – or, at least, I don’t.  Tom relies on me for the most part when it comes to navigating Paris.

The Promenade Pereire begins behind the
Neuilly-Porte-de-Maillot-Palais-des-Congres commuter train station.
Keeping in mind the arrondissements that we don’t frequent as often, I was staring at the map of the 17th arrondissement and decided that the boulevard Pereire, with its wide green median, might be a promising walk.  To get there, we’d take the line 6 to Etoile and we’d be sure to exit that huge metro station on the back side of the Arc de Triomphe, on the avenue de la Grande Armée.

That avenue seems even wider than the Champs Elysées.  We walked its full, wind-swept length and turned onto the boulevard Pereire at the Place de la Porte Maillot on the northwestern edge of Paris.  A huge concert hall and convention center called the Palais des Congrés presides over that intersection.  Supposedly this modern 1974 monstrosity also contains a shopping center.

The Promenade Pereire
As soon as we were on the boulevard Pereire we were back in Paris, we could tell.  Flowers and trees rule the center of that boulevard, and stately Haussmannian apartments dominate its sides.  Most of the way, we were able to amble through the parks that make up the median of that boulevard.  One small section was closed for repairs, and two other little parcels where what looked like day-care centers were located were also closed off.

The walk down this median is called the Promenade Pereire, clearly a relative of the Promenade Plantée in the 12th arrondissement.  The Pereire, opened in 1989, requires and receives even more maintenance than the Plantée; the lush flowerbeds include plenty of Impatiens, which are known for their thirst.

Impatiens and other flowers along the Promenade Pereire.

The neighborhood around the Promenade Pereire is remarkably calm and quiet, especially in August.  There are very few commercial venues in that quartier; the neighborhood is almost purely residential, with little automobile traffic.  In these ways, the Pereire is also different from the Promenade Plantée.

The beautiful Promenade ended at the rue Alfred Roll, but we continued to walk along the boulevard Pereire to the Place de Wagram, because that stretch was still lovely and quiet, with huge trees lining the banks of a ravine with a railroad track at the bottom; that ravine formed the center of the boulevard.  The track is part of the Petite Ceinture; an abandoned beltway train.  But here, instead of running along the outer border of Paris, the Petite Ceinture goes straight through the middle of the 17th arrondissement, in a chic neighborhood.

The Promenade Pereire.
We walked the full length of the avenue de Wagram, stopping for refreshments at a well-worn but nice restaurant called La Compagnie.  It was the first place we found that was open!  There isn’t much commercial at all in this part of the 17th, and what little there is tends to be closed in August.  Even though it was a little pricey, we appreciated La Compagnie just for being there, but also for the high quality of the bit of food we consumed – luscious raspberries and strawberries with a small side of whipped cream – heavenly.  Tom said his coffee was perfect, and my glass of rosé was crisp and cold.

Fortified, we went on down the hill toward Etoile.  We found our way through the mob around that most famous, giant round-about to the calm avenue Marceau, where the downhill slope became steeper.

We would have visited the church of St. Pierre de Chaillot, but it was closed for the month!  I never heard of a church closing for a month for vacation. 

Carvings on the front of the church of
St. Pierre de Chaillot include a fire-breathing alligator.
As we approached the Pont de l’Alma I noticed that a small crowd had gathered around the flame sculpture there, paying homage to Princess Diana. 

We crossed the Seine, admired the new Russian Orthodox Church again, and walked down the avenue Rapp to the Champ de Mars, where we rested on a park bench for a while.  Tom was very hungry, so he asked me to reserve a table via at our new, favorite Italian place in the ‘hood, Pietro Commerce.

We had only about a half hour to recuperate in the apartment before leaving it again to walk to dinner.  Fortunately, the restaurant wasn’t far.

Cool apartment with a huge arched window, great balconies, and
 gold decorations at the top of a building on the
avenue Wagram, across from La Compagnie restaurant.

As we sat in the open terrace window across from the church of St. John the Baptist of Grenelle, the bells began to ring loudly for the 7:30PM call to the 8PM mass.  The bells rang again at 8, but not quite as vociferously.  I wondered if church attendance is up during these troubled times?

Aside from the loudly ringing bells, we had a peaceful dinner in the popular neighborhood resto.  Tom ordered the beef carpaccio again; he says it is the best at Pietro.  I ordered calamari and spinach with linguini.  I hadn’t eaten pasta in a long time.  It was great – especially because of the garlic and great parmesan cheese.  Tom had a café gourmand special – an especially generous assortment of little desserts with an excellent cup of coffee on the side.

And so, as we returned to the apartment, another 20,000-step day came to an end. 

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