This was the last long walk we took before we left Paris last fall, and it was a perfect way to say good-bye to the city. The Île aux Cygnes (“Isle of the Swans” — nope, we didn’t see a single one) is a long, thin island in the Seine. Just southwest of the Eiffel Tower, it’s a little bit off the beaten path, but not so much so that it’s tough to get to. It was created in the early 19th c. as a breakwater, to protect what was then the port of Grenelle (now absorbed into Paris and part of the 15th arrondissement). Sixty-two years later, the American community in Paris commemorated the centennial of the French Revolution with a 1/4-size replica of the Statue of Liberty, which was installed on the southwest tip of the island (at 22 metres, or 72 feet, tall, it’s still pretty imposing).
Between the Statuette of Liberty at one end, and the Pont de Bir-Hakeim at the other, there’s a single path, perfect for promenades, flanked with trees and benches.
I recommend starting on the Pont de Grenelle. If you, like us, take the #72 bus along the Right Bank to get there, listen carefully for the “Radio France-Pont de Grenelle” stop (confusingly, one stop west of the “Radio France” stop). You will find yourself standing where the Rue de Boulainvilliers meets the Avenue du Président Kennedy. Cross the street to the river and get yourself onto the left side of the bridge. Descend the ramp and walk under the bridge to reach Madame Liberté. Please note that she’s facing her American sister, 3,500 miles away — and savor the fact that you can get close enough to touch her pedestal (pet dogs, as you may already know, cannot visit Lady Liberty).
Turn back around and stroll northeast, the length of the island. The views are wonderful, as you can see, and the folks you meet are all in strolling mode — relaxed, prepared to admire your dog, and often accompanied by dogs themselves.
When you reach the north end of the island, you’ll find yourself facing a set of stairs — climb them, carefully cross the street (and bridge), and you’ll find yourself on the actual northern tip of the island, which has an unimpeded view of the Eiffel Tower. Claim yourself a bit of parapet, and enjoy the moment.
When you’re ready to leave, return to the right bank. Cross over to the center of the bridge as you get to its north end, and descend the staircase before you; you’ll find yourself right at the “Pont de Bir-Hakeim” stop for the #72 bus, now heading back to the Place de la Concorde (and beyond, to the Louvre and Châtelet).
We walked down the middle of the bridge, on those two lanes you see in the middle of the picture, but it’s really for bicyclists. Thank goodness none came along while we were hogging their path — next time, we’ll know to walk alongside the bridge railings instead.