For years I had been (enviously) reading about the success of food trucks in Los Angeles, Seattle and Sydney while lamenting the fact that none existed in Paris. And then one day a taco truck called The Cantine California rolled into town, right on the heels of a burger truck called Le Camion Qui Fume, owned by a California native. As to be expected, these mobile kitchens were eyed with haughty sniffs of suspicion and disapproval by the natives here. After all, France is a world leader in la gastronomie française. Buy lunch from a truck and eat on the street with one’s hands?? Que le ciel nous en préserve ! (Heaven forbid!) But it’s surprising how quickly people adapt. Now there are long lines for a grilled cheese sandwich, a burger, fish and chips, Mexican, Lebanese and Vietnamese food … everything but French!
These photos were taken during my lunch hour at La Défense, Europe’s largest business district on Paris’s west side. This is where I work. The Esplanade de la Défense is a long walkway lined on either side with trees, apartments, restaurants and skyscrapers. It’s dedicated entirely to pedestrians, which is why I like wandering around here.
Walking from my office on this summery breezy day to the far end of La Défense, it was nice to stop at the many shaded squares along the way and watch office colleagues playing boules (pétanque) on their lunch hour, as if they were in a provençal village rather than this major business district that houses the headquarters of multinational giants such as TOTAL, EDF, Areva, Axa, GDF Suez and Société Générale, to name a few. La Défense is the largest purposely-built business district in Europe.
The further you walk towards La Grande Arche at the end of the Esplanade, the thicker and higher the buildings. But there’s still lots of open space. And lots going on.
Here’s what I wrote in another blog post on the same topic – some people loathe La Défense because of its concrete slabs and dehumanizing uniformity. They say the place is devoid of charm or soul. I happen to disagree. I find a poetic expression in the design of this urban space. I think the planners have done an excellent job in humanizing the concrete landscape with the presence of outdoor art installations, grassy squares and benches, fountains (one which vigorously splashes up and down in tune with classical music played loudly on speakers), whimsical sculptures, seasonal markets, a summer jazz festival, etc. And again, the best part is: no cars! Come on out for a visit!
How to get there – It’s real easy. Just jump onto the westbound line 1 metro, direction La Défense, to the Esplanade de la Défense stop. At the far end, there’s a massive shopping mall called Les Quatre Temps complete with restaurants, boutiques and a multiplex movie theater called the UGC Ciné Cité with 16 screens. Opposite, there are more restaurants and stores in the CNIT building. You can also take an elevator to the roof of La Grande Arche, the Danish-designed white cube, and look out at the stunning view of Paris.
Word of caution – I’d avoid walking around this area late at night.