Blink and you could be in a village in the west of Ireland. Or perhaps Portobello Road in London. The rue Cremieux in the 12th arrondissement is one of the most picturesque streets in Paris. The street is only 144 metres long and 7.5 metres wide – thirty five houses, no more than 2 storeys high and with a kitchen in the basement, were built in 1857 for local workers, and in 1993 it was repaved and became pedestrian only.
The brightly painted houses and tranquil atmosphere of the street are a world away from the busy Gare de Lyon just around the corner. If the bustle of the city gets a bit too much, step off into the rue Cremieux, and the roar of the city around you could almost transform, just for a moment, into the roar of waves crashing onto an Irish beach.
- rue Cremieux, between the rue de Lyon and rue de Bercy, 75012. metro: Gare de Lyon or Quai de la Rapée
Recently I discovered that not only are there 1200 drinking water fountains across Paris, but that they are not only beautiful, like the Wallace fountains, they now include fountains providing fizzy drinking water.
You may think that this is just Paris, where people are so chic that they even need sparkling water coming out of their fountains, and it’s true that it’s cool and delicious on a hot day, but it’s more than that. The French drink vast amounts of mineral water, producing the equivalent vast amounts of plastic bottle waste. The fountains known as ‘La Petillante’ – or she who sparkles – are actually dispensing tap water that is cooled and carbonated on the spot, in a campaign to try and make tap water more acceptable to locals. And it seems to be making everyone happy, I’ve stopped by 2 recently, one on the Berges de Seine by the riverside, providing a cool drink to happy runners, tourists and locals enjoying the sunshine by the river, and one in the Parc André Citroen, where a woman in front of me was filling up about 10 glass bottles. This one has even gone a step further, and a vending machine sells reusable water bottles (designed by Philippe Starck of course, this is Paris…)
The other nice thing about these fountains, is that currently they are all located in or near beautiful parks or gardens, so you an always find a place to sit and enjoy a drink.
So keep your bottle handy, and check out the map below for up to date details of their locations as more are installed (as well as locations of all the drinking water fountains in Paris including the Wallace fountains). Sitting by the riverside enjoying the views and a cool, fresh drink of sparkling water isn’t a bad way to spend a sunny afternoon in Paris.
map of drinking water fountains in Paris (in French)
At the north eastern edge of the Bois de Vincennes, lies a half hidden glimpse into the past. The Jardin d’Agronomie Tropicale was created for the Colonial Exhibition of 1907, and consisted of various different pavilions, each representing the colonies of the old French Empire – Indochina, Madagascar, Sudan, Guyana, the Congo and North Africa, including Tunisia and Morocco. Later used to grow and study plants brought back from these colonies, it is now almost completely derelict – the gardeners clear what is necessary to keep the pathways and buildings clear but otherwise nature has taken over once again.
The Indochina pavilion has been carefully restored, and gives a wonderful idea of how this fascinating site must have looked all those years ago, and could possibly look again. It’s now used for temporary art exhibitions.
It’s a strange and quite enchanting place, turn a corner in the wood and you suddenly come across a stupa, or a Chinese pavilion. Time really seems to have stood still here, and the contrast of these silent old buildings with the families picnicking nearby in the park is quite ethereal and beautiful.
- Jardin d’Agronomie Tropicale, 45 bis avenue de la Belle Gabrielle, 75012 Paris. metro: RER A Nogent sur Marne then 10 minutes walk. Open daily from 9:30, free entry.
This past weekend was the ‘Puces du Design’, the flea market dedicated to furniture from the 1950’s to 2000.
Now in it’s 15th year, this street market brings together around 100 gallerists and dealers showcasing, and of course selling, all the iconic names in furniture and lighting design – all original vintage and in pristine condition. It’s a design lovers paradise…
The Puces du Design is held twice a year in October and May, locations around the city vary. Check out their website for information about past and upcoming editions.
Les Puces du Design