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not all those who wander are lost

Exploring Paris’ Abandoned Railways

I was supposed to revise – exams are coming up in two weeks – but a good friend of mine rang me and asked me if I wanted to go on a little trip to La Petite Ceinture – or The Little Belt.

“The Little Belt? Never heard ’bout that”.

Here is what I found online.

Abandoned railway. Beautiful & intact. Circular railway around Paris. Began service in 1862. Built for military purposes. Transported people and freight until 1934. Passenger transportation gradually stopped as the Metro appeared in the 1900s. Paris city currently trying to rehabilitate it and make it into a The Parisian “High Line”.

Both skeptical and curious, I decided to go on this uncommon Parisian trip.

2pm. We arrived at Porte de Vincennes train station. There, I ended up near the tramway stations. When I looked up, I immediately noticed an aerial railway bridge. Except there were some people walking on it. That’s it. How do we get there?
My friends said I would have to jump over some fences. Did not help much.

A new vision of Paris

The railway is aerial. We had visual on it every single minute. We just followed the tracks. Until we found a sloped street which gave easy access to La Petite Ceinture. No fences involved at all. Just an open door.

Wow. I had a hard time believing I was actually in Paris while on the tracks. I enjoyed Paris under a different perspective. Under a much more unconventional one.

We didn’t encounter many people on our way. The few we came across were just sitting on the tracks, chilling, having barbecue. Some others were tagging the walls with graffiti. Me? I was there for the view and the pictures.

Dead (or living rats), dripping water, empty beer cans

Finally, after perhaps one hour, we found ourselves in front of a tunnel. There, a guy told us that it would be a 20 minute-long walk in the dark to get through the other side. I heard the words – dead (or living) rats, dripping water, empty beers cans. Our phones all had battery. We went in.

It was a bit unsettling for me since it was the first time I walked through a tunnel. My sister did not help at all as she was making comments about what she could find on the ground. One might even say I yelled at some point because of a supposed rat.

Through and out of the tunnel

We were mostly walking on the central tracks. We ran into one guy on his bicycle, heading towards where we came from. Fun fact: I was surprised to see I could pick up 4G network down there…

As we saw the other end of the tunnel, we noticed some tunnel exits on both sides of the tunnel. The exits were not open however. We did not linger longer and went out of the tunnel. The place was pretty dirty (many items laying around) and it seemed like people were/are living (?) there.

We walked a few more meters and saw stairs that went up. We ended up near Parc de Belleville in the 19th district.

Overall, I enjoyed this little trip on the outskirts of Paris – and very glad I did stay home studying on this beautiful day. Technically, going on La Petite Ceinture is prohibited, but I have never heard or read anything about someone having trouble for being there. I definitely recommend this trip to those who are seeking for less touristy-attractions and a cool experience. The walk is not long and the view is nice.

People we met on our way were all friendly, but try not to go on La Petite Ceinture alone of course, you never know.

To do: discover another section of La Petite Ceinture! (maps can easily be found online).

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1 Comment

  1. wow, such an adventure

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