The stroll starts from Port de la Râpée, by the Seine riverside at the foot of the Austerlitz viaduct. (The easiest way is to arrive at Gare de Lyon metro- RER station and to reach the Seine via boulevard de Diderot and rue Traversière).
The stroll continues along the riverside up to the ministry of Finance, a modern building extending far above the quay, to reach the Parc de Bercy.
The wine warehouses of Bercy have all disappeared, gone with the modern ways of storing the wine.  They are replaced by the Palais Omnisports and the Parc de Bercy. Especially in its second and third parts, the park is really nice with its gardens, vineyards and ponds. Within Cour Saint-Emilion, the old chais have been kept like on the other side of the street, the Lheureux buildings where there is a fun-fair museum and a school of Bakery and Patisserie.

Stroll in Paris district Bercy detailed map itinerary

Bercy district is being continuously impacted by changes, including spots that you could have thought to be protected; For example, the Tunnel des Artisans in rue Baron le Roy, in activity since 1840, the last and only natural refrigerator in Paris used by producers and craftsmen, is very much affected by the new Bercy Charenton project covering 63 hectares (156 acres).

And like the bastion nr 1 of the fortifications of Paris (1841-1845), listed as historical monument used as  a homeless shelter; This by means of a curious reversal, recalling the marginalized populations living outside upon the fortifications like the rag pickers photographed byAtget.

Quai de la Râpée

This stroll in Atget's steps is largely a ghost walk: the port activities of quay de la Râpée are all gone, the docks are engulfed within the bitumen of the expressway. But, in good weather, the walk along the old ports de la Râpée and de Bercy is pretty nice with the boat-restaurants offering nice terraces and the view upon new buildings of the left bank showing a modern side of Paris.

As shown with the discovery in Bercy of ten pirogues dating to the 4th millennium BC, the river has always played an important part in this area. In the past, at the intersection of Boulevard de Bercy, Quai de la Râpée and de Bercy, there was the barrier of la Râpée where the tax collectors were stopping the  the boats. To avoid the payment of tax, the boats were unloading the wine arriving by boat from Burgundy and Loire at quay deBercy, just before the barrier. It is how Bercy started. Then, the wine trade developed further, wine warehouses gradually expanded to finally cover 104 acres between quay de Bercy, boulevard and rue de Bercy, and boulevard Poniatowski.

crane unloading coal quai de la Rapee Atget

Crane unloading coal, quai de la Rapée
Atget – 1898
(Musée Carnavalet)

Port de la Rapee on the left pleasure boat on the right behind the wall the forensic institute

Port de la Rapée - On the left, pleasure boat,

on the right, behind the wall, the forensic institute

Austerlitz viaduct

Quai de la Râpée reminds me the first days when I was working at IBM at the seventh floor of the building Rives de Seine, close to Gare de Lyon. As I was living rue deTolbiac in the 13th district,  I was using the metro line n° 5 to come to work; I remember the curve followed by the metro train when arriving around the forensic institute. The district all around Gare de Lyon has changed a lot and is still changing, but this part at the foot of the Austerlitz viaduct is the same as described by Leo Mallet in his book, written in the 50s, Fog overTolbiac Bridge.
"Another several metres underground, to run under the Austerlitz bridge, and the metro back to the surface, curved round the brick buildings of the forensic institute, gloomy only in the image one has of them, but as cheerful and lively as the famous Dr. Paul himself, high priest of the place - and roared on to the metal viaduct over the Seine."

Fog over Tolibiac Bridge is part of what Leo Malet called his "New Mysteries of Paris," each set in one of the city's districts, or arrondissements, the series referring to Eugène Sue's nineteenth-century Mysteries of Paris.

Austerlitz viaduct built in 1903 by engineers Biette and Bienvenue

Austerlitz viaduct -

Built in 1903 by engineers Biette and Bienvenüe

Austerlitz viaduct perfect merge of technical expertise and style in the finest detail

Austerlitz viaduct - Perfect merge of technical expertise and style in the finest details

Pilar austerlitz viaduct

Pilar Austerlitz viaduct

On the other bank, modern buildings: with the bright green structure, Cité de la Mode et du Design.  With balconies from blue to yellow through the green, depending on the angle of view (dichroic glass), the Fulton building.

the BnF (National Library of France) like four big open books facing each other, designed by Dominique Perrault.

Cite de la Mode et du Design

Cité de la Mode et du Design

Fulton building

Fulton Building

Bercy bridge on the left the finance minestry and on the right the BNF building National Library of France

Bercy Bridge
On the left the Finance ministry and on the right the BnF building (National Library of France)

Parc de Bercy

Palais Omnisports de Bercy

Walk between the Finance Ministry and the Palais Omnisports de Bercy covered with a sloping lawn.
Walk around this pyramidal building and enter
Parc de Bercy.

In the past, the Bercy open-air restaurants along the river were serving the grilled rib steack sauce Bercy made with wine, shallots, parsley, butter and bone marrow... Or the rib steack sauce marchand de vin (wine merchant sauce) made with a full-bodied red wine.

The names of the alleys in the park recall the past wine activity, like: rue de Pommard, passage Saint-Emilion, rue de Chablis. But in place of the wine storehouses and cellars housing barrels of wine, all that remains is a vast park, known as the "garden of memory".

Divided into three different parts, the park has kept the lay-out of the old lanes, all named from a wine area. On the ground, one can still see the old rail lines used to carry the wine casks. It is nice walking in the park, where there are hundred century-old plane trees and a thousand new trees. Four hundred vines harvested each autumn complete the memory of the old place.

The first garden in front of the Palais Omnisports is the least attractive. Named  “les grandes pelouses” (the vast lawn), rather like a meadow at best or a doormat at worst, they are laid in accordance with the old grid of streets. Cour Dessort, photographed by Atget,was roughly located between today passerelle Simone de Beauvoir and the Cinematheque Francaise, a building designed by Franck Gehry.  Cour Dessort opened in 1878 was located between rue du Port de Bercy and rue de Cognac. Dessort was the name of a wine warehouse owner.

Cour Dessort Bercy wine warehouses Atget

Cour Dessort - Bercy Wine warehouses
Atget – 1913
(Ville de Paris)

Parc de Bercy les grandes pelouses at the back the cinematheque francaise

Parc de Bercy – Les grandes pelouses
At he back, the Cinémathèque française

The second garden, named les Parterres, is nicely arranged around nine gardens and the house of gardening in its centre. The vines, protected against the greedy blackbirds, recall the old activity of the area.

Rue Laroche, photographed by Atget, is located today roughly in the axis of one of the footbridges above rue Joseph Kessel. Initially located between rue Leopold and rue de Blaye, it was created in 1815 by a wine merchant from Laroche Saint Cydroine, a city in Yonne department.

rue Laroche bercy wine warehouse Atget

Rue Laroche – Bercy wine warehouse
Atget - 1913
(Ville de Paris)

Rue Laroche – Entrepôts de Bercy Atget – 1913(Ville de Paris)

Rue Laroche – Bercy wine warehouse
Atget – 1913
(Ville de Paris)

Parc de Bercy les Parterres

Parc de Bercy - Les Parterres

rue Laroche Bercy wine warehouse Atget

Rue Laroche – Bercy wine warehouse
Atget - 1913
(Ville de Paris)

Parc de Bercy les Parterres vines and the House of Gardening

Parc de Bercy – Les Parterres
Vines and the House of Gardening

old map of Bercy

Old map of Bercy

Parc de Bercy Jardin Romantique

Located in the third part of the Park, le jardin romantique (the Romantic Garden) is arranged around ponds with ducks and turtles. I was lucky enough to even see a heron capturing a fish, not that common to see in Paris!

Going out of this third garden, we arrive into Bercy Village where the old Saint-Emilion wine warehouses have been converted into boutique shops and restaurants.

From Passage Saint-Emilion, we arrive at rue des Pirogues de Bercy, named from the discovery in Bercy of pirogues from the neolithic period. They can be seen in the Carnavalet museum.
In this street, the Chais Lheureux are other old wine warehouses nicely restored, with the fairground museum (Musée des Arts Forains) and a school of bakery and Patisserie.

Bercy wine warehouse cour Saint-Emilion Atget

Bercy wine warehouse
cour Saint-Emilion
(Musée Carnavalet)

Bercy Village cour Saint-Emilion

Bercy Village - cour Saint-Emilion

Pavillons de Bercy Batiments Lheureux

Pavillons de Bercy
Bâtiments Lheureux

Tunnel des Artisans

Tunnel des Artisans rue Baron-le-Roy(Août 2017)

Tunnel des Artisans - rue Baron-le-Roy

The stroll can end here. Either you can use bus line 24, at rue des Terroirs de France, that will take you in a pleasant drive through Paris, or the metro station at Cour Saint-Emilion.

On my side during my last visit rue Baron-le-Roy, I was curious to see at which point the Tunnel des Artisans was impacted by the vast new project Bercy Charenton.

Although its activity is now considerably reduced, the Tunnel des Artisans has succeeded in preserving the stone vaults once endangered by the Bercy Charenton project.

Located under the old Râpée railway station, this tunnel has been used since 1841 by craftsmen as a natural cooling room, where the temperature remains constant between 10 and 12°C all year round. It was also used as a set for several scenes in the film "Papy fait de la résistance" (Gramps is in the Resistance). A very premonitory title for these craftsmen...

Fortification Porte de Bercy - Rue Robert Etlin

Fortifications of Paris Porte de Bercy

After the Tunnel des Artisans, II also had the curiosity to go and see Bastion 1 of the old fortifications of Paris, accessible by bus line 24.

Bastion 1, listed as historic monument, remains the only  significant element of the old fortifications (last defensive walls built between 1841 and 1844). These remaining walls around a small 100 meters long polygon, are the only ones to be saved, obviously too much small to be pulled down and replaced by social housing as it was done in 1919 when the fortifications around Paris were destroyed.
Today, they are obviously large enough to receive a shelter for the homeless. Standing between a large rail junction and storage warehouses, the area is not made for strolling; the air is full of the pollution coming from the close peripherique motorway and the huge Bercy interchange. Only the obsession I have in following Atget’s steps and the curiosity I have to discover unknown places were strong enough for me to come to this part of Paris.J

Fortifications Porte de Bercy Atget

Porte de Bercy
(Musée Carnavalet)

Porte de Bercy zone de fortifications Atget

Porte de Bercy
Zone de fortifications
Atget 1910-1913
(Musée Carnavalet)

Bastion 1 anciennes fortifications de Thiers rue Robert Etlin

Bastion 1
Anciennes fortifications de Thiers
Rue Robert Etlin

Bastion 1 anciennes fortifications de Thiers rue Robert Etlin

Bastion 1
Anciennes fortifications de Thiers
Rue Robert Etlin

Texte / Photos : Martine Combes

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