SHARE
COPY LINK

PARIS

Paris pétanque club under threat from luxury hotel plans

A community pétanque club in the chic Paris neighbourhood of Montmartre is battling for survival after a luxury hotel filed plans for the walled garden that hosts its exclusive games.

Paris pétanque club under threat from luxury hotel plans
Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP

For 50 years, the walled garden on the ultra-chic Rue Lepic has resonated with the metal clacks of pétanque, the French national bowling pastime, defying the gentrification that drew envious eyes.

Montmartre in the north of Paris is one of the few elevated areas in the relatively flat French capital and “the butte”, as it is known, had for many years a rural feel that captivated artists.

Even now, with the area absorbed into the urban sprawl of central Paris, most residents still call it a village.

The garden is maintained by the non-profit organisation Club Lepic-Abbesses Pétanque (CLAP) and its 257 members, who say nothing less than the neighbourhood’s soul is at stake as City Hall considers rival commercial projects for the site.

“You have job-seekers, pensioner and CEOs, a chef, a teacher. A 16-year-old can play with someone who’s 80. Here you find all types, and it’s this incredible social fabric that makes us what we are,” said Maxime Liogier, the club’s communications manager.

The players took over the 765 square metres of playing grounds, a rare remnant of the vegetation that once covered the butte, after the city bought the land from a daughter of a resident painter in 1972.

No formal contracts were signed but the city gave its tacit approval, connecting water and electricity for the clubhouse and letting the club reserve entry to members only.

The status quo prevailed until a few months ago, when the luxury boutique hotel next door filed a plan to turn the site into a for-profit affair. What better setting for lush wedding receptions or cocktail parties?

READ ALSO 10 things you probably didn’t know about pétanque

Under a 2017 law, the city had to publish the proposal for use of public land and invite competing offers that are due by November 28th.

The move caught the CLAP off guard, especially since it had been trying to regularise its situation with local officials.

“Two months isn’t a lot of time for us to come up with a project!” Liogier said.

An online petition to save the club has garnered around 4,300 signatures, though members seem to accept that their days of exclusive access are numbered.

“We want to keep the site in its current state, while opening it up as much as possible to the neighbourhood,” Liogier said.

To that end, the club held an open house on Saturday, with members suggesting that schools would soon be invited so children could learn an activity more often associated with pensioners enjoying a game between glasses of beer or pastis.

“When a unique place like this is in danger, it breaks your heart,” French tennis great and neighbour Yannick Noah told AFP.

“It’s good to have commercial projects but maybe there’s something more important — this bond between people.”

But not everyone will be sad to see the club go. Alain Coquard, the influential president of the “Republic of Montmartre” preservation society, calls the CLAP an unaccountable clique that claims dominion over a “magical site” that should be open to everyone.

The stakes are high for the butte as it seeks to join UNESCO’s ranks of protected World Heritage Sites.

“Can we leave a city’s heritage, which belongs to all Parisian taxpayers, abandoned like this? Just give it to people who have turned it into the most exclusive club in Paris?” he said.

According to Coquard — who says he was refused entry the one time he was invited to play — private event operators are also preparing lucrative proposals for the city, which could be temping as the municipal debt load soars.

But his Republic is backing the bid by the Hotel Particulier next door, whose director Oscar Comtet declined to comment when contacted by AFP.

“We sided with him to ensure this corner of Montmartre is opened up,” Coquard said, conjuring up a range of open-door events, maybe even an ice-skating rink, on the petanque grounds in winter.

But the CLAP is digging in. Older members recall a years-long battle in the 1980s to prevent the construction of a multi-storey carpark on the site.

Prominent neighbours including Jean-Pierre Cassel, father of star actor Vincent Cassel, chained themselves to the trees to scupper the project, and in 1991 the site was designated a protected landscape.

“If we have to, we’ll do the same,” Liogier said, though he remains confident that 50 years of taking care of the garden have not been in vain.

“We trust that the planning commission will pick the best project, which is us.”

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

STRIKES

UPDATE: How Tuesday’s pension strike will impact Paris

Tuesday, January 31st marks a second day of mass strike action in protest at planned pension reforms - here's how the strike will impact services in the French capital.

UPDATE: How Tuesday's pension strike will impact Paris

Rail workers, public transport employees and teachers are along the people who will walk out on Tuesday in the latest one-day strike as unions battle the government over plans to reform the pension system, including raising the retirement age from 62 to 64.

Here’s how this will affect Paris – you can find full details of the nationwide service impacts HERE.

6 ways to get a round Paris without public transport

Metro

  • Lines 1 and 14, which are automated, will run as normal, but are likely to be extremely busy. Line 14 currently closes at 10pm because of ongoing works. All other Metro lines will be running a limited service.
  • Line 4 – running all day, with 1 in 2 services at rush hour, and 1 in 4 the rest of the day
  • Line 2 – 1 in 2 normal services, closing at 8pm
  • Line 6 – running from 5.30am to 9.30am and 3.30pm to 7.30pm, running only between Nation and Denfert-Rochereau with 1 in 3 of normal services
  • Line 10 – morning only, 1 in 3 of normal services
  • Line 3bis – closed

The following lines will run only during rush hour – 7.30am to 9.30am and 4.30pm to 7.30pm;

  • Line 3 – 1 train in 3, open only between Pont de Levellaois-Bécon a Havre-Caumartin
  • Line 5 – 1 train in 3, open only between Bobigy-Pablo Picasso and Gare du Nord
  • Line 7 – 1 train in 3
  • Line 7bis – 1 train in 3
  • Line 8 – 1 train in 3, open only between Créteil-Pointe du Lac and Reuilly-Diderot
  • Line 9 – 1 train in 2
  • Line 12 – 1 train in 4
  • Line 11 – 1 train in 3 in the morning, 1 in 5 in the evening, open only between Belleville and Maire des Lilas
  • Line 13 – 1 train in 3, open only between Saint-Denis-Université/Les Cortilles and Invalides

Keep in mind that some metro stations on lines that are operating may be closed. You can see the exhaustive list here.

The following metro stations will only be open during rush hour (7:30am to 9:30 am and 4:30pm to 7:30pm): Reuilly-Diderot, Bastille, Champs Elysées – Clémenceau, Stalingrad, and Villiers. The station “Hôtel de Ville” will only be open during the morning rush our period.

Some stations will be closed throughout the day, like Simplon, Strasbourg – Saint Denis, Réaumur-Sébastopol, Cité, Montparnasse-Bienvenüe, Pasteur, Hoche, Laumière, République, Richard Lenoir, Campo Formio, Château-Landon, Cadet, Opéra, Tolbiac, Trocadéro, Grands Boulevards, La Motte-Picquet – Grenelle, Duroc and Alésia.

Bus

On average, 8 in 10 of the normal services will run.

Tram 

ON average, 8 in 10 of the normal services will run, a detailed timetable will be published on Monday evening.

RER 

RER A – 1 train in 2 during rush hour and 1 in 4 the rest of the day

RER B – 1 train in 2 during rush hour and 1 in 3 the rest of the day, stopping at Gare du Nord

RER C, D and E – 1 train in 10 

Transilien – 1 train in 3 on lines H and U, 1 in 4 on line K and 1 in 10 of normal services on lines J, N, L, P and R.

Eurostar 

The Eurostar has cancelled seven services – three from Paris to London, three from London to Paris and one from Brussels to London, but all other trains will run as normal. Find the full list of cancellations here

Trains

National and international rail services in and out of the capital will be severely disrupted, with 1 in 3 of the normal TGV services running and 2 in 10 of the normal TER services.

As for specific lines, TGV services in the north of the country will run 2 trains out of 5; services in the east will run 1 train out of 2; services in the west will run 1 train out of 4; services in the south east will run 1 train out of 2; and OUIGO services will run 2 trains out of 5.

SNCF said on their website on Monday that Thalys trains (French-Belgian) will run “almost normal” and that Lyria (lines connecting France and Switzerland) will be heavily disrupted. You can see updated information on the SNCF website here.

Flights 

There will be some cancellations of flights, but only those arriving or leaving at Paris Orly airport. The civil aviation authority says that this will affect flights arriving or leaving between Monday evening and 6am on Wednesday – anyone with a flight to/from Orly booked between those times is advised to check with their airline.

Air France announced on Monday that it expected one in 10 of its short to medium haul flights to be cancelled on Tuesday due to strike action. The company said that it did not expect the strikes to cause any cancellations for long-haul flights.

The airline said that those whose flights are cancelled may be eligible for credit or full refunds. Air France is also offering to no-fee postponements for travel until February 7. Customers were advised to check their flight status prior to leaving for the airport via the Air France app or website.

As of Monday, the civil aviation authority (DGAC) expected operations to run normally on Tuesday at the Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport, according to Le Parisien.

Schools

Many schools in the capital will be fully or partly closed for the day – the last one-day strike saw just under half of teachers taking part, and a similar turnout is expected this time.

The main teachers’ union Snuipp-FSU said on Monday that around half of all nursery and primary school teachers would be striking.

Mairie

Paris’s Hotel de Ville will be closed on Tuesday, so administrative appointments will have to be rescheduled, although city services such as bin collection will continue as normal. The Communist leader Fabien Rossel has called for town halls across the country to close in solidarity with the strikes, but the final decision is up to individual mayors. The arrondissements mairies, therefore, may be open as normal.

Demos 

There will be demonstrations and marches across the country, including in Paris where a large turnout is expected. The march will begin in Place d’Italie at 2pm, marching towards Place Vauban where it is expected to end at around 7pm.

Roads will be closed along the route including  Avenue des Gobelins, Boulevard de Port Royal, Boulevard du Montparnasse, Boulevard des Invalides and place Vauban.

SHOW COMMENTS