Around the Edges

Around 27 million tourists visit Paris each year, but only a small percentage of these people step outside of the city limits. A specially drawn footpath around Paris – and a new book detailing the route – aims to change this situation. Here I discuss the path and the Paris suburbs with its creator, Paul-Hervé Lavessiere, and with Baptiste Lanaspeze, the book’s editor and the publisher of a wider series of urban walks.

The idea for an urban footpath winding around Paris through its suburbs began two years ago…in Marseille! Baptiste Lanaspeze, owner of Wildproject, a militant publisher of environmental texts, had based the first of his urban walks around France’s second-largest city (where he is also based). Paul-Hervé Lavessiere, a young urbanist, was one of the first to follow the path. After meeting Baptiste, the idea of creating something similar around Paris began to germinate.

Paul-Hervé readily admits that he knew very little about the Paris suburbs before plotting his walk, and was actually based in Brussels as he drew out the pathway. As an urbanist and cartographer though, what he did know about is cities and maps. Using a combination of free mapping software, historical maps and online resources, Paul-Hervé drew out a route that he believed told the story of the suburbs and would provide numerous points of interest to walkers.

One word immediately jumped out at Paul-Hervé and Baptiste when discussing this walk; revolution. The walk circles the city, but as the two men point out, it also aims to reunite Paris with its suburbs…and with its head! The walk starts and ends in Saint Denis (right), a city named after a ‘saint’ who legend has it walked from Paris to this spot carrying his head under his arm. It was once the final resting place of the country’s kings and queens, but became a city that was chopped away from Paris after the French revolution.

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