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Avenue Franklin D. Roosevelt
Park Attributes: Near Metro, Free Wifi Access, Low Street Noise, Romantic
You know that feeling of spring when the leaves are green and ripe, the fountains in Paris are flowing, and the birds sing in the trees from within the many parks of the city of light. This park, called the Swiss Valley, located just a stone’s throw from Champs-Élysées, is hidden beneath a dome of green so tall and vibrant you may not see the stone staircase that winds between the ivy, chestnut trees, and drooping flower petals. I certainly did not.
I walked right past the concealed entrance of the Swiss Valley several times. Then I found it. Those white-stone statues of couples caressing and flying, etched deep into the face of a miniature Swiss Alps, with Greek columns flanked at both ends of the mountain range. Arching trees, purple leaves, and flowers stitch the skyline to form a stunning backdrop to a park submerged inside a ceiling of evergreen. I realized then, while standing on the sidewalk of Avenue Franklin D. Roosevelt, in a roar of car horns, that I had finally located the hidden valley of Paris.
Finding the entrance is actually easy, once you know your way around the eighth arrondissement. If you are on the Left Bank, walk across the Point des Invalides bridge towards the Right Bank. Once you step off the bridge, look for the long picturesque park, Jardin d’Erevan, stretching clear across half of Cours la Reine. The Palais de la Découverte is on the junction of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Cours la Reine. Walk towards the miniature Swiss Alps beside Palais de la Découverte and you will see a small green gate that winds down into the heart of the Swiss Valley.
At the bottom of the staircase is a crooked stone archway with a wild top hat of leaves and ivy that dangles down the stones and to the ground. It is here that the green wilderness envelopes you. And it’s a true jungle in here! The trees are plump, the leaves falling and swaying in the wind. Birds fly from tree to tree, branch to branch, bench to footbridge. In the distance, on the main path that weaves through the park, is a gentle waterfall that collects into a turquoise pool. The waterfall blocks out the street noise and foot traffic from above. All you will hear are the tides of spring, the freshwater fish swimming through the crystal clear water, and bird songs bouncing from ear to ear.
Have a seat on a comfortable wooden bench that faces the pool and waterfall. Behind you is a mountain of shade, and above, a tapestry of branches with crisscrossed limbs of twirling ivy. Look closely at the branches. Finches of green, orange, brown, red, and blue sit quietly between the leaves waiting for a visitor to drop a piece of bread to the ground. The wooden footbridge at the end of the pathway will cross overhead, and occasionally you will see a tired office worker walking to and fro from the Palais de la Découverte.
Catch a glimpse of the flickering sunlight dance off the Palais glass at the fall of another day. Stay awhile on the benches for a casual lunch, surf the free Wifi, or just sit back with a good book after the long search for your favorite author at the green bookstalls that front both banks of the Seine. My favorite time to visit the Swiss Valley was in the morning at waking light, when Paris is tranquil and starting anew. The sun, a faint hue of orange behind the white clouds, shines through the cracks in the ceiling, where the leaves end and the vines begin.
Gregory Ross is the author of the Hidden Parks of Paris 2014, the first-ever travel book on the parks of Paris. He currently lives in Honolulu.