When my daughter was a baby, the canal area above was a drug-infested post-industrial wasteland. I started finding bloody syringes in our building and was about to pull up stakes, when the powers that be rerouted traffic behind the colonnaded 18th century Rotonde to create an esplanade for carnivals and concerts. Suddenly there were playgrounds, cobblestone walkways, trees, and a bike path out to the country. Some brave local dads stood vigil around a crack house to attract media attention and organized petitions and protests until the dealers left. Movie theaters, restaurants, and a marina opened. Every summer the city stages Paris Plages, with its sandy beaches, palm trees, party lights, dance floors, and water sports. On weekends, singles and families wander to and from pétanque parties and picnics. All year round, you can watch double decker tour boats passing through the locks, wild swans, and sunsets. Risen from its ashes, the quartier is a hip destination. Against all odds, religious communities coexist without much friction, maybe because plaques at our elementary school door remind us everyday how almost 400 Jewish children were rounded up here and sent to death camps during the Occupation. The least we can do to honor them is keep the peace in our urban bubble.
Since 2011 Paris has created green and blue corridors (land and water migration paths) as part of a far-reaching Biodiversity Plan, no longer using chemical pesticides in public spaces and leaving many lawn areas fallow. Foxes, squirrels, hedgehogs, peregrine falcons, wild swans, bats have returned to the parks and waterways in our district and the water quality has improved enough for humans to return to the Bassin de la Villette for swimming summer 2017. Paris hopes to organize the summer Olympics in 2024 and hold aquatic events in the Seine 🙂
To be continued! xxxx Aliss