- To discover the very south hidden Paris, mostly unknown by Parisians.
- For a glimpse of Street Art works in the Buttes-aux-Cailles village.
- To spot the first ever Paris skyscraper.
- To listen to your welcomer, expert on the History of water in Paris.
Hidden Paris Along the Bievre – Walking Tour
Paris and the Seine are unfailingly bound. The city and its river. But this couple had former competitors. Multiple brooks and rivers ran down hills. They were progressively channeled, becoming underground sewers.
The main tributary of the Seine in Paris was the river Bièvre. It entered the city by the South, buckled around hills then joined the Seine at the current Austerlitz station. As centuries and waters ran, Butte-aux Cailles’ millers, Gobelins tapestry-makers, Mouffetard butchers made the most of Bièvre’s uneven flow. This walk will take you in their steps.
Overused and finally overpolluted, the Bièvre finished covered and part of the hidden Paris. Your welcomer suggests guessing its course through a district little frequented by Parisians. Open the eye to see that, in the curve of a street, in the name of a street plate, in the slope of an avenue, revives the engulfed river is revived.
One century ago, from Poterne des Peupliers to Place d’Italie, Paris was still rustic and rural. The river Bièvre lazily designed broad curves: Rue Brillat-Savarin took place on one of them. It spread out in ponds, the charming Cité Florale was later built over such a location that was back at this time, far from being part of hidden Paris as we see it now.
The Butte-aux-Cailles dominated the river bed from quite high. Climb up rue Daviel and your legs will realize it. Uphill, where famous Street artists’ creations liven up the streets today, once turned numerous mill blades. Along Croulebarbe and Berbier-du-Metz streets, the mills used to move thanks to the river flow. Look how the street line bends! It makes the river easy to guess. Along its banks, worked washerwomen, spreading clean linens on surrounding meadows so that the sun bleached them.
René Le Gall public garden is all that remains of this countryside at the water’s edge. Washerwomen, workers, countrymen willingly gathered into local cabarets, poets and artists themselves came to find inspiration. From the local folklore, Victor Hugo picked up a terrible story, that of a young shepherdess, that he reported in Les Misérables.
In time, fresh water turned murky. Industries also used the river and polluted it. Tanners dumped there the acid baths which softened leathers; the Manufacture des Gobelins discharged waters overloaded with the dyes required for making magnificent drapes and royal tapestries. The Bièvre disappeared and became part of the hidden Paris, the Gobelins remained, with a lot of its annexes. One of them is among the oldest houses of Paris. Your welcomer will tell you which medieval feast ended tragically within its walls.
At the foot of Rue Mouffetard, joined both arms of the river, the living Bièvre and the Dead Bièvre. Thus called because it often dried up in summer and froze in winter. Its ponds turned to coolers from which ice blocks were collected to refresh food and drinks.
In the current Rue Buffon, albeit almost at its goal, the river was still badly treated by monks who bypassed its waters to irrigate their gardens. Finally, your welcomer will lead you to the point where Bièvre and Seine met. Where the tributary has been disappearing for natural reasons in its river.
Meeting Address: 3 Rue Gouthière, 75013 Paris - Tramway line 3, Poterne des Peupliers station
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