28 August 2014

Notes from Paris

As part of my new Paris ritual, I check up on the vertical garden by BHV. It seems only yesterday it was all seeds and aspirations (second checkup here, third here) and look at it now:

A beautiful vertical wilderness!

I want to climb up there and kiss it, stroke the leaves gently. Nothing strange about that, right?

We still need this in Copenhagen.

On the Seine, the bridge Pont des Arts is under attack. First time I crossed it years ago, a few locks were scattered along the railing as a demonstration of love. Over time this love has become destructive, the railings so burdened with "romantic" trash that parts of it falls into the Seine.

The city is pleading with tourists to stop, fencing off the crippled railing. And still they keep at it. I even witnessed someone mounting a lock, proudly documenting it. Utter morons!

I want to fix this problem so bad.

Later I spotted these in a side street to the Seine.

Perhaps a couple realised that their love was strong enough to survive, without destroying part of Paris. 

On the sunny side, for one month of the year, the Seine highway is closed for cars and transformed into a beach. A madly popular initiative.

It should be returned to the people permanently. Imagine making this an ice skating rink in the winter? Imagine markets lining the Seine? Fleas, flowers, food. Such a beautiful space.

By a busy square, the city of Paris set up a free and manned tap water bar, offering a choice of still or sparkling. The "Ouvrez un grand cru" campaign is running on its second year, educating citizens on the qualities of the water. A public service initiative as opposed to a short-lived PR stunt, designed for the media. PR stunts are so insincere, they creep me out.

So cool. Although not as tasty as Eau de Copenhague.

Select streets are still closed for cars on Sundays, between the hours of 10-19.30. Enforced, mind you: police officers guarding all entrances. Taking the safety of pedestrians and cyclists seriously.

With the bike parking problems we face in Copenhagen (insufficient/non existing parking), it was interesting to see the difference in Paris. There were plenty of parked bikes, but none blocking the sidewalks.

Well: duh! Copenhagen really need to get its priorities straight when it comes to parking space. It's a no-brainer, really: cars have to give. It just takes balls to implement.

Another example of what a street can look like, if you (gasp!) remove a few car parking spots. 

Tell me again, why are we clinging to the concept of metal taking up the majority of our public space?

And there is a politeness in Paris. No drunken yelling in the streets, bar owners put up signs in the window, asking smokers to use the ashtrays. In the buses signs are politely asking that you show consideration for your fellow passengers, and keep your phone conversations in a low voice. Little things like that, but everywhere.

I noticed this old woman stopping in front of a tree, and pushing back displaced rubble, before moving on. She clearly considered it a shared responsibility to keep the city nice. I agree, of course.

The city of Paris returns the favor by not spamming its citizens with advertising, on every single surface. In Copenhagen a scaffolding is seen as an opportunity to visually pollute with spam, in Paris it is used to pay tribute to street art.

Scaffold cover street art

By Nemo, Jérôme Mesnager (l'Homme en blanc) and Mosko & Associes.

Scaffold cover

Oh, Paris.


  1. Hello again Sandra! Yes I do hate what they've done to the pont des arts. I remember it without any lock, it was really romantic and beautiful. Now it is just crap. They should give fines to the people putting locks. More money for the trees!
    There are actually several water sources in Paris, one in the Butte aux Cailles, and one not far from my place with sparkling and still. Many people go there to fill bottles. I sometimes do, but am too lazy to carry all that back to my place most of the time... ah!
    They've been doing much better than Paris plage, which is just in the summer. They've done Les BErges. Stopping for good all traffic, to give the space back to pedestrians, with many things including little indoor spaces that you can rent for free, when you want to take a nap/have a lil' party. There are also gardens, tipis, restaurants, etc. http://lesberges.paris.fr/
    Check it out next time, it's great. It used to be a fast lane for cars!!!

    1. Ah, I remember once you commented on one of our bridges here, and described the ugliness on Pont des Arts, and I didn't quite get it. But now, holy crap! People caught doing this, should be left with a choice of paying a steep fine, or removing 50 locks with a bolt cutter. In the long run, they may have to put up a fence that does not allow for locking. Or add low voltage, zap!

      And OH, I wish I had known about this place Les Berges, it is in the opposite direction of my favorite path, that is why I missed it. You have so much going on there, lucky you.

      I did check out the Recyclerie, the old train station by Clignancourt, do you know that place? Super cosy spot, with recycled details in the interior, what looks like yummy food and interesting classes and arrangements every day.

      It seems Paris is really moving in the right direction, I would love to see some of these initiatives rub off on Copenhagen. : )

  2. Captain NapalmSeptember 16, 2014

    Hi Sandra,
    I ticked on your comment concerning the bikes in Paris. It's true that they don't block the sidewalk, but the main reason for that is simply because the use of the bike is way lower in Paris (and in France in general) than it is in Copenhagen. This and the increasing popularity of public bikes. The scale is not at all the same, and I wonder what Paris' sidewalks would look like with the same percentage of bike users as in Copenhagen x)
    As for the politeness in Paris, well, I guess that depends where you're walking and at what time of the day. But this maybe just the point of view of a guy tired of France anyway...

    1. There may not be as many bikes, but the bike parking options are still superior to ours (non existing, really). That is what we can learn from Paris. Maybe you will need more in Paris, as cycling becomes more popular. From the looks of things, it is a priority to make space for bikes.

      The fix is easy: replace car parking space with bike parking. You can fit in up to twelve bikes in one space. But it takes courage to challenge the car lobby, a powerful force here.

  3. I have never understood how a lock could be a symbol for love. It's unbelievable that the masses of locks are destroying a bridge.

    1. Yes, why is that? A padlock is about being stuck and confined, not set free and happy. Imagine if people planted a tree or added a plant or a flower to a garden? You could create a magic forest that way, and your ancestors could visit it and think fondly of you. Instead of being embarrassed that you destroyed something beautiful with a piece of heavy metal.


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