I think it was somewhere around 38 minutes into my first visit to Parc Citroën that I realized the delight, and importance, or the urban park. Not that before then I disliked, or discounted, parks in the middle of a city, but more so realizing that this particular urban form of park (Yerba-Buena Park in SF is another example, and the High Line is one too, of a fashion…) provides a certain je ne sais quoi for the city. They are made of the stuff of the city, but are made unlike the rest of the city. They create space without being confining – a hard border, mixing zones, different forms and abstractions, and places, things, sculptures, delightful follies of form and structure and building and deconstructed building, and events, all to interact with, all while also interacting with your fellow city dwellers.
So there I was, at the Parc Citroën, on the bank of the Seine, walking in for the first time, leaving the city behind but not really leaving the city, being surrounded by the city while simultaneously being in silent stillness, wandering aimlessly, exploring this way and that, discovering nifty little patches of colourful gardens, wandering amongst the waterfalls and fountains, witnessing people at play and at rest. As my friend and I stood within the humid confines of a narrow greenhouse, surrounded by huge leafs and odd flowers, I was hooked.
Years later, on a subsequent trip to Paris, after a long series of overnight flights, my friend and I dropped our bags off at the hotel and immediately headed to the parc, and napped in amongst the paths and the trees and the life. An hour later, we headed back into the city to start our visit, rejuvenated and ready.