The French capital is nurturing its leafy parts. Sarah Barrell strolls through some oases



Paris is not usually billed as a green destination, but millennial city planning projects have proved "pro-vert". In the run up to 2000, some 200km of cycle routes and 10 or more pedestrian areas were created by the Mairie de Paris. For those who don't want to explore Paris on foot, the new Météor Métro line cuts a diagonal path across the city, its seven stations including a glass-enclosed rainforest. And between 18-25 February, the Salon de l'Agriculture comes to the French capital. Expect the Exhibition centre at Porte de Versailles to host perfectly coiffed sheep, pristine pigs and strutting bulls, and some fine regional produce.


A Eurostar train from London Waterloo (08705 186 186, has to be the greenest and most convenient route from Britain to the French capital. Today's Independent promotion offers two return tickets for a total of £99. Eurostar deposits you at the Gare du Nord close to the centre of Paris, avoiding the need to negotiate the exhaust fume-polluted ring road and offering easy access to public transport.


Paris has more than 400 parks and gardens and the last decade or so has seen the conversion of many derelict industrial sites into oases. Even Baron Haussmann, champion of the grandiose urban boulevard, did his bit to ventilate the city, the leafy results of which can be found in such parks as the eccentric Parc des Buttes-Chaumont. Located, rather grimly, on the site of a former public gibbet, this is a fantastic park with waterfalls, caves, and a lake out of which soars a 50m-high rock. The top offers views of the Sacré-Coeur and orientating Parisian panoramas. The city's Tourist Information Office is at 127 avenue des Champs-Elysées (00 33 1 49 52 53 54,


Le Jardin de Neuilly (5, rue Paul Deroulÿde, 00 33 1 46 24 51 62) is a 19th-century townhouse hotel with that Parisian rarity, a private garden. Most rooms in this three-star hotel overlook the garden and are furnished with antiques. Breakfast is served in the conservatory; summer meals can be taken on the patio. Short Breaks (020 8402 0007, offers three nights for £209 per person, including bed and breakfast and return Eurostar travel; or call the hotel, where double rooms start from £110 per night. For cheaper accommodation, try Camping Bois du Boulogne (2 allée du Bord de l'Eau, 0033 1 45 24 30 00), where you can pitch a tent for Ff68 (£6.80). A free bus runs from Porte-Maillot metro.


Possibly one of the most pleasant and novel walks you can do in Paris is to take a stroll along the Promenade Plantée. Set in the Bastille area, on the top of the Viaduc des Arts (a showroom for designers and craftsmen which was formerly a railway viaduct), this fragrant footpath runs east to the Bois de Vincennes. The suspended garden is lined with rose bushes and shrubs and offers traffic-free views of Paris (and a sneaky eye-level look into the flanking apartments) out through obscure corners of the 12th arrondissement, to the wilds of the Bois. Bikes and in-line skates are supposedly banned.


The newest park in Paris is also an interpretation of one of the oldest. Follow the animal footprints along a terracotta path from the corner of the Boulevard St-Michel to the Forÿt de la Licorne to find a contemporary take on a medieval garden. Conceived by Elisabeth Antoine, curator at the Musée National du Moyen Age, plants are used to depict scenes from the museum's celebrated Lady and the Unicorn tapestries. Visit the four formal gardens (kitchen, medicinal, celestial and profane love) which aim to conjure up the life and preoccupations of the Middle Ages.


Those seeking to refuel after walking or cycling their way around central Paris, should head for Granterroirs at 30, Miromesnil (00 33 1 47 42 18 18), where two enormous rustic picnic tables are always full to bursting with a loyal crowd of gourmet diners. This restaurant-cum-food store specialises in hearty tarts, mouth-wateringly presented salads and homemade conserves and juices. For ladies who lunch, rather than folk who brunch, try the oh-so-trendy Guen Mai at 2bis rue de l'Abbaye (00 33 1 43 26 03 24), where you are most certainly charged for the pleasure of dining in fashionable St-Germain. It is "La Spot" to indulge in yummy organic juices and salads - and to sneak a peak at celebs.


The last few years have seen a concerted effort by the Mairie to introduce more cycle lanes in the French capital. Paris à Vélo is the best free handout from tourist offices, detailing cycle routes and hire shops and giving general advice; or visit the website