There is a railway line that circles Paris called la Petite Ceinture (the little belt). It is uncovered in many places, but as it is below street level, it is not obvious. It is essentially hidden from view, unless you happen to be walking along a street directly above it. This railway was abandoned by the government roughly 20 years ago and, in many places, vegetation has taken over. Last summer I was walking with a friend along the rue de Ruisseau, in the 18th arrondissement. As we came to the intersection with the rue Belliard. (Metro: Porte de Clignancourt, Line 4) we walked across the overpass of the train tracks. I happened to look down and I saw the most surreal picture: luxuriant cultivated gardens, tables offering food and drink, a concert with the audience sitting in chairs on the tracks and the band playing on the platform When the gate is unlocked, climb down the metal stairway and have a look for yourself. If you continue eastward along the tracks you will come to the Gare d’Ornano, a renovated train station. I loved the idea of people from the neighborhood reclaiming the area, beautifying and enjoying it and wanted to learn more. I discovered that there is another section of la Petite Ceinture – this time in the south of Paris – that has been reclaimed by local residents. Visit the Parc Georges Brassens (see n°26) in the 15th arrondissement, and see the tracks between the rue Brancion and the rue de Dantzig.
Strange as it may seem, there was a time when you were not allowed on the grass in public parks. This is happily no longer the case, and a picnic can provide a very pleasant respite from touring. You can picnic near the Hotel des Invalides (Metro Invalides, Lines 8, 13) and the Eiffel Tower (Metro Bir Hakeim Line 6). There is the Parc Floral (see above) in the Bois de Vincennes and the Jardin d’Acclimatation (a great place to take your kids) in the Bois de Boulogne. Additionally, there are also the many public parks and gardens that dot Paris, in particular the beautiful Parc Monceau (Metro Monceau, Line 2). (My friend Maria loves the rose gardens so much that she picks up the litter whenever she is there.)
Part of the fun of the picnic is buying the food. This is a great pretext for a trip to an outdoor market. You can buy some bread, a selection of cheese and pates, fruit, and/or some prepared food. Fm sure inspiration will be right there to guide you. Remember to pack a Swiss Army knife and some cheap cutlery in your luggage that goes in the cargo bin.