Paris Secrets: The Nimble Leek LbNA # 60789
|Placed Date||Dec 22 2011|
|Location||Jardin Villemin, Paris, France, INT|
Of all Paris's secrets, the one that hits me as most incongruous are its community gardens. Amongst the surfeit of manicured laws and “keep off the grass” signs, these community gardens are tiny nooks of riotous-in-comparison nature. Urban gems hidden away behind walls on empty plots where buildings used to stand. Or tucked away in the corner of a city park. Producing vegetables instead of well-ordered urban greenery.
The Poireau Agile (which means "nimble leek") is one such garden, located in the Jardin Villemin in the 10th arrondissement, next to the Gare de l’Est.
To find the letterbox planted it its honor, head to Jardin Villemin and explore this neighborhood park.
Find the Poireau Agile community garden. Stand at the very center of the garden and face the shed (see photo). To your left, at about 2 o'clock, you should see a large pavilion (see photo). Exit the Poireau Agile and follow the park path to the left.
When the path forks, follow the left fork (do not take the right fork toward the pavilion) in the general direction of one of the park's two playgrounds. At the second fork, stay left again and head toward the old street fountain (now just a statue — see photo).
At the fountain, turn left and follow the path toward the edge of the Jardin Villemin. In no time at all, your path should cross a path made of paving stones. Straight ahead, a little to the right, across the path, you should see a circle of 6 benches (see photo). One group of two, and one group of 4.
Enter the circle by the path furthest to your right, the one closest to the official park maintenance building. Sit on the second bench in the group of 4 (counting from the path nearest the maintenance building, not from the path with the low steps) until the coast is clear. (Keep a sharp eye out for city maintenance staff, in particular!) Your best bet is to sit on the very end of the bench closest to the middle of this group of four.
When the coast is clear, swivel around on the end of the bench and stand up facing the ivy. Take one small step toward the ivy and reach in. The letterbox (a pill bottle painted black) is hanging (by green wire) roughly 4 feet or so above the ground behind the first layer of ivy.
Note: It is very hard to see. When I hung it, I stepped back a few steps to see if it was hidden and then immediately had trouble finding it again to give the wire an extra twist.
While you're in this neck of the woods, you can exit the Jardin Villemin by the lower end, near the Poireau Agile, and follow the Canal St. Martin to the right toward the center of Paris. On the other side of the canal, just a block or two away is one of Paris's landmarks, the Hôtel du Nord, which was the setting for the 1938 movie of the same name, a cultural touchstone.
Or you can follow the canal to the left for another lovely walk through the north of Paris.
If you are hungry for authentic French food, head north following the canal until you reach Metro Jaurès, cross the busy intersection, and then continue along the Quai de la Loire. Behind the movie theater on the right side of the canal, is a small restaurant called Au Rendez-Vous de la Marine, one of my favorites in Paris. Small. Nothing to look at from the outside. Friendly. Always busy. Profiteroles to die for.
If you keep going north along the canal far enough (it's a long walk), you will eventually reach the Parc de la Villette — a huge park well worth exploring.
Or if you're hungry but have had your fill of French food, head out the other end of Jardin Villemin, toward the Gare de l'Est and walk down the Boulevard de Strasbourg. Take a few minutes to visit the Église Saint Laurent, if you like. Then cross over to the right side of the Boulevard de Strasbourg (heading downhill away from the Gare de l'Est). Pass the Métro Château d'Eau, and keep your eyes peeled for the Passage Brady on your right. Head into the Passage and explore another of Paris's secrets: little India.