We will start from Port de la Râpée, by the Seine riverside at the
foot of the Austerlitz viaduct. (The easiest way is to arrive at Gare de Lyon metro- RER station and to reach the Seine via boulevard de Diderot and rue Traversière).
We will walk along the riverside up to the ministry of Finance with its modern
building extending far above the quay.
As shown with the discovery in Bercy of ten pirogues dating to the 4th millennium BC, the river has always
played an important part in this area. In the past, at the intersection of Boulevard de Bercy, Quai de la Râpée and de Bercy,
there was the barrier of la Râpée from which the tax collectors were watching the boats on the river.
A boat, called Patache, was collecting
the duties upon goods entering Paris, by water. To avoid paying the duties, the wine arriving by water from Burgundy and Loire was unloaded at quay de Bercy, just before the barrier. Then, the wine trade developed further,
wine warehouses gradually expanded over an old domain and finally grew up to cover 104 acres between quay de Bercy, boulevard and rue de Bercy, and boulevard Poniatowski.
This tour following Atget's steps will be largely a ghost walk:
the port activities of quay de la Râpée are all gone, the docks are engulfed within the bitumen of the
expressway. But, in good weather, the walk along the old ports de la Râpée and de Bercy is pretty nice with the boat-restaurants offering nice terraces and the view
upon new buildings of the left bank showing a modern side of Paris.
Then, we will walk in the Parc de Bercy. Because ways of wine storage changed, the wine warehouses have disappeared, all gone within the grass of the Palais Omnisports and of Parc de Bercy. Especially in its second and third parts, the park is
really nice with its gardens, vineyards and ponds. Within Cour Saint-Emilion, the old chais have been kept like on the other side of the street, the Lheureux buildings which house a fun-fair museum and a school of Bakery and Patisserie.
Bercy district is being continuously impacted by changes,
including spots that you could have thought to be protected; like the Tunnel des Artisans, rue Baron-le-Roy, used by producers and craftsmen since 1840, enjoying the constant temperature provided by the tunnel. Unfortunately, this
natural refrigerator, the only last one in Paris, could be destroyed with the project Bercy Charenton covering 156 acres. As the
bastion nr 1 of the fortifications of Paris (1841-1845), listed as historical monument is being converted into a homeless shelter; This by means of a curious reversal, recalling the marginalized populations living outside upon the fortifications like the rag
pickers photographed by Atget.