We would not have expected that an excursion into nature would lead us here of all places. In the midst of tall office buildings, she seems far away, but that is deceptive. Because on the roof of Pavilion 6 of the Paris exhibition halls is the largest city garden in the world. Over 30 different types of fruit, vegetables and herbs grow here, some of them aeroponic.
Aero what? The garden guide Julie, who greets us at a height of 20 meters, will describe this to us. We look at field-like systems on the flat roof, surrounded by high-rise buildings - and in the distance we spy the tip of the Eiffel Tower! But now, pay attention, because Julie explains the concept of Nature Urbaine, the operator of this area with a total of 14,000 square meters. On average, it yields around 200 kilograms of fruit and vegetables per day.
Customers are supermarkets, hotels and restaurants in the area. Because the city garden should not only bring more nature into the metropolis, but also shorten transport routes for food. That's why residents can also rent one of 135 raised beds, which they manage themselves and which we are now examining: in some, parsley, carrots and heads of lettuce grow in a rather unconventional way, in others herb and vegetable areas have been neatly arranged.
Everywhere busy bees are on the move, while the traffic noises only faintly penetrate from below: We are actually in Paris, and yet in the middle of a vegetable field! Julie lets us city dwellers guess what is actually growing there: So this is what chard looks like! We recognize the mint immediately - at least when we hold our noses to the leaves. We discover aubergines, peas and – the more advanced – nasturtiums, which we even get to taste. "Flowers to eat?!" a boy shrieks enthusiastically.
Next door, rows of strawberries grow in small pots on pillars. The fruits are ripe and shine appetizingly red, but just grab them? We don't dare.
Instead, we now find out what aeroponic cultivation is all about: The plants grow on top of each other, which allows for a significantly higher yield. In this way, for example, 52 lettuce can be grown in one square meter, compared to just nine with traditional cultivation, explains Julie. The roots are not stuck in the ground, but are supplied with a liquid nutrient solution that constantly runs through the columns, so that hardly any of it is lost. Julie opens a trough full of water from which several hoses lead.
Finally, she has good news for us, whose mouths have been watering for a long time: "Here are still a lot of strawberries that want to be eaten!" We can eat the ripe, but surprisingly not very sweet fruits as we please serve while our hostess brings crackers and savory jams made from green tomatoes and peppers, along with nasturtiums.
More nature in the middle of the city, with a view of the Eiffel Tower and Paris at our feet, is not possible.
The roof garden can be visited as part of a guided tour (entrance: 2 avenue de la Porte de la Plaine, metro line 12, Porte de Versailles station). The tours last one to two hours; they are available in French several times a week, request tours in English at nu-paris.com/contact. Cost: 15 euros for a 1-hour guided tour, 25 euros for a guided tour and tasting (nu-paris.com).
The article is an excerpt from the recently published book "Paris - City Adventures" by travel book author Birgit Holzer, Michael Müller Verlag/mm-wandern.de. The book describes 33 experiences in and around Paris that are extraordinary and take place off the usual tourist routes.