La Cite Fleurie, Paris
It was time to do justice to the city I've been living in for almost 9 years now and write something about it. Not easy, as my dear Paris is a city of thousand faces and facets, and a good many of articles depict and dissect every single part of it... The Paris I love is the one of forbidden places, that seem totally anodyne to the unaware passerby, places that hide unlooked-for treasures behind their black, dusty wrought iron fences.
I might have passed dozens of times during my running sessions in front of the number 60 on Arago Boulevard. The place looks somehow suspicious, too calm, too dusty and too fenced, squeezed between a regular block and the Square Henri Cadiou, a place where people walk their dogs and kids. However, I used to take a quick glance at the fence and then indifferently continue my run. Yesterday I decided to explore this place and see what it was about. I didn't expect anything like this.
Wikipedia gives some details about this place that I won't reiterate here. Ok, I will, but very briefly: La Cité Fleurie was built between 1878 and 1888 with materials coming from the 1878 universal exhibition held in Paris. La Cité is a small village with 30 buildings that host artists' studios, where even Modigliani, Gauguin and many, many other artists have lived through the 20th century. The place was saved from destruction in the 80's, when the real estate companies wanted to grasp the land for further investments. The inhabitants' vehemence successfully managed to protect La Cité, registering it as historical monument.
What makes La Cité Fleurie such a special place is, as the name says, the flowers, the lavish shrubs, the green bounties of nature and the apparently wild liana climbing fences and walls, giving it a romantic and decadent mood... yes, the place lives up to its name! Between the studios which have an air of traditional houses from Normandy, the small alleys are invaded with odorous shrubs: roses, peonies, acacia, elderberry, lilac, mock-orange, honeysuckle, wild olive trees... I went there just after the rain, the air was fresh and steeped in the most crystalline scents of spring flowers. Never have I seen more mock-orange shrubs (Philadelphus) in the same place! Maybe this is why I was so charmed, as the mock-orange is definitely my favorite perfume of all times... I should go back there before they fade away, together with their ethereal and heavenly bouquet...