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Hikes to claim the pedestrian’s place in Greater Paris

By Emeline Cazi

Posted today at 5:43 am, updated at 9:09 am

Two accessories were enough, this Thursday in mid-August, for complete strangers to strike up a conversation, even before the 9:34 am H train for Ecouen-Ezanville, the first stop in the green behind the large groups of the northern suburbs, left Paris. “We’re going to the same place, right?” “, asks the last person on the wagon to those already installed. The walking shoes and the picnic backpack do not disappoint. “And are you registered for all stages?” “, everyone asks, like these table exchanges, the first evening of the GR20, to find out who signed up for two weeks through the Corsican mountains.

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However, there is no guidebook, no walking stick, no pass to climb. But 200 km all the same, eleven stages. And paths to find to cross highways, railroads, bypass airports, and find rivers of which we had lost track, explains, twenty minutes later, the man in royal blue Bermuda shorts who, standing in the middle of the circle -point of the station, welcomes the group of travelers with A3 format cards, stickers and chocolate.

In front of Ecouen station, in Val-d'Oise, with Vianney Delourme (co-founder of Enlarge Your Paris), August 19, 2021.
The group crosses the Petit Rosne, in Sarcelles (Val-d'Oise), on August 19, 2021.

At the pace of the sheep

Faces can be recognized. Is it during the “Bitumen leg” de Villejuif, in the Val-de-Marne, and its 6 km approach walk, that they crossed? It was in 2020, we celebrated the simultaneous arrival of two of the tunnel boring machines digging the future Grand Paris metro (200 km, 68 stations, by 2030). Unless it is during this improbable crossing of the Seine-Saint-Denis at the foot of the sheep of the shepherds of La Courneuve. “Paris is very walkable. The suburbs, we have put all the infrastructure, everything is marked by the car. Your job today is to imagine footpaths that will redraw the territory ”, explains Vianney Delourme, the initiator of these funny outings, whose “Grand Paris pedestrian tour”, second edition this summer, and which ends this Sunday, August 29, is now considered the flagship discipline.

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Nothing is left to chance in the layout of each stage. See for the first time: 19 km between the Château d’Ecouen, a Renaissance jewel, and the Paris-Nord 2 business area. A forest, two airports, large estates, two rivers, the Croult and the Petit-Rosne , that the XXe century has enclosed in concrete gangues. And, finally, the lands of the famous Triangle de Gonesse, whose urbanization, still relevant despite the Europacity episode, is still controversial. In short, a nice summary of the development challenges of the Ile-de-France metropolis.

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