City of past ver­sus ‘fu­ture’

Calgary Herald - Calgary Herald New Condos - - Front Page - RICHARD WHITE

This is the sec­ond in a four part se­ries of ar­ti­cles on lessons learned from a trip to the Euro­pean river cities of Frankfurt, Paris, Lyon and Stras­bourg.

Upon arriving in Paris, you quickly re­al­ize that apart from also be­ing on a river, it has lit­tle in com­mon with Cal­gary.

In fact, the two cities could be on dif­fer­ent Plan Its (oops, I mean plan­ets).

A city with a metropoli­tan area of nearly 12 mil­lion peo­ple — with about two mil­lion in the city, it­self — Paris is a place of cel­e­bra­tion, mon­u­ments and dec­o­ra­tion.

Even the trees are pruned and planted to re­flect a sense of cel­e­bra­tion along the boule­vards.

Like march­ing band mem­bers, sol­diers or sen­tinels, they are pre­cisely po­si­tioned.

In com­par­i­son, Cal­gary is a more in­for­mal — dare I say “wild” — city where our trees are al­lowed grow in what­ever gnarly way na­ture de­ter­mines.

When we do prune the po­plars, we butcher them into sub­mis­sion, rather than shape them into sculp­tural ob­jects.

Our rivers’ edges are also “wild” with trees, bushes, rocks, mud and trails. This is in sharp con­trast with Paris, where the Seine has been tamed into a canal for tourist boats.

The Seine is slow and brown, not nearly as dy­namic as Cal­gary’s Bow and El­bow Rivers with their ev­ery-chang­ing pal­ette of colours, and shore­lines lined with beavers, ducks, bald ea­gles, osprey and other wildlife.

How­ever, when it comes to pub­lic tran­sit, Paris is the wild city of the two, es­pe­cially so when you use the Metro, or sub­way, with its maze of 13 in­ter­con­nect­ing lines.

Paris has more sub­ways than Cal­gary has free­ways.

Cal­gary Her­ald Archive

Fire­works sur­round the Eif­fel Tower in Paris, the ‘City of Light.’

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