This is not your typical Parisian garden. In fact, this is probably as un-traditional as Paris gets. This is the Parc de Bercy, and our final chapter in the French Way Spring Special .
Located in the heart of the twelfth arrondissement , the Parc de Bercy is split into three gardens which run along the right bank of the Seine River. I accidentally discovered this quiet corner of Paris on the way to one of the neighboring movie theatres – what a joy! It is now included in my morning power walk ritual, where I watch it change effortlessly with the weather and seasons. This is one of those places in the world where you see something different on every visit; buskers on their accordions, tiny tots playing on the merry-go-round, young couples out walking their Chihuahuas, or latterly, a man walking down three flights of stairs…on his hands!
Although considered “off the beaten track” for most tourists, Parc de Bercy continues to fascinate me in a way I can’t really describe. You see, it doesn’t feel like Paris. It’s young, it’s hip, and it’s most certainly marching to the beat of its own drum. The Parc de Bercy presents us with a refreshing diversity of architectural designs, forms, ambiances, and discoveries.
In this corner of Paris, the old and the new are inextricably intertwined; a traditional garden house is located merely metres away from Frank Gehry’s modern Cinémathèque , rectangular Japanese-influenced ponds are constructed under the shade of trees that have stood the test of time, and families can quietly eat an habitual Sunday night picnic dinner on the grass before heading to the movies at the trendy Cour Saint-Emilion , which borders the park. Some argue that it is a bit of a ‘mish-mash’ of design strategies, but the Parc de Bercy is really Paris’ way of saying, “we’re moving forward, but guarding what we hold dear.”
Near the exit which leads to the impeccably constructed Simone-de-Beauvoir bridge, are twenty-one colored sculptures crafted by Algerian sculptor, Rachid Khimoune. Erected in 2001, these sculptures represent twenty-one children from twenty-one different countries of the world, symbolizing us entering into the twenty-first century with a regard and respect for one another. They stand on the slope overlooking the park, proudly looking ahead to the future and embracing the adventures it has in store for us.
Despite its modern flair, Parc de Bercy is still a traditional park. What I mean by that is that this area works in the way any other park does – there are always people playing, laughing, eating, drinking, sun-bathing (albeit not this week), and spending time with the people that mean a lot to them. This is what a park should do, and this one achieves it beautifully.
Parc de Bercy shuts at 9pm (hours vary depending on season)
The closest metro stations are Bercy or Cour Saint-Emilion on Line 14.
Article written by Sarah Reese.