If there’s one thing I’ve learnt this year, it’s that I’m a country girl at heart.
I love the bustling city life, where you can jump on the metro without a second thought and spontaneously pop out for drinks with friends, without worrying whether there’ll be a bar open or a bus to take you home.
However, in spite of this, there has been a moment in both Paris and Madrid where I have felt a real need to get out of the city and just breathe. I popped back to Northern Ireland for a quick weekend with family in May, and the freshness of the air helped revive my weary city-polluted body. The air there is so clean it even smells green.
So, where to find green spaces in the ville des lumières? Paris, unlike London, is not well-known for its parks. But here’s a little selection of places I have enjoyed visiting for a change of air.
Parc de Buttes Chaumont – much-loved by the locals, this park is a hidden oasis in the north-east of the city. It’s not massive, but the little lake in the middle, twisting paths and rocky walls will make you feel like you’re miles away from the city centre.
Bois de Vincennes – a great place if you want to feel green grass between your feet and lose yourself for a few hours. The park is big, but paths are well-marked, and there are several cafés about for a mid-walk ice-cream stop. They also have a flower garden and a zoo, should you so wish to visit them! Just avoid it at night…
Promenade Plantée – you can walk from Bastille to the Bois de Vincennes (see above) on this little walkway. A former railway track, it has been converted into a raised walk that takes you on a lovely journey across the rooftops of Paris, through tunnels, public gardens and tree-lined pathways.
Foret de Meudon – this is the real place you want to go if you’re craving nature. It takes a little more of an effort to get here (though the RER C isn’t too bad), but it’s where you’ll find leafy trees, shaded paths and sweet little lakes. It’s the perfect way to escape for the day!
Jardin des Plantes – this is my favourite inner-city park. Filled with flowers and plants (try to visit when the roses are in bloom!), this garden is a great place to meet friends for a stroll on a warm summer’s day. There’s also a zoo here, and several anthropological museums and places to visit. Stop for a mint tea and sticky pastry at the mosque across the road on your way out.