If you’re looking for an alternative activity away from the crowds, visit Paris’s abandoned railway, The Petite Ceinture, which stopped operation in 1934. There is no formal entrance: The way in was a simple swing over a barrier, but the way out, I am proud to say, I climbed my first eight foot fence. As it was a grey day, my tandem* and I were practically the only ones there except for a few teenagers hanging around. Walking down the rail tracks bordered by heavily graffitied walls, it was as if we had entered a post-apocalyptic world. During a long stretch of pitch-black tunnel, the flashlights on our phones illuminated stray clothes, remnants of cardboard boxes and a rat scurrying in the opposite direction. We’d get a reminder of life somewhere out there, only when the railroad’s bridges would pass over the boulevards. It is likely different here during the summer when the wild flowers start blooming and Parisians come out to picnic in the sun. I’ll come again to see this other side to The Petite Ceinture, but nothing will be able to top that first impression and feeling that we were on some kind of exploration project, doing field-research in a remote location only accessible to us.
* tandem de langue – future APA students, this is a great way to meet a French peer! Essentially a language partner who hopefully becomes a friend. APA and Nanterre both offer this opportunity. APA does signups about a week into the program while Nanterre sends out an email – after indicating interests and hobbies, you get your match.