Suresnes, a view on Paris
Dominated by the Mont Valérien, Suresnes boasts the largest vineyard in Ile-de-France as well as an American cemetery and a renowned garden city. The town also offers great viewpoints on the capital.
Can you imagine yourself walking through a vineyard while admiring the Eiffel Tower ?... No, it’s not an impossible dream. You just have to go to Suresnes, a town of the Hauts-de-Seine department located south of La Défense office district, just across the river Seine from the Bois de Boulogne. There, on a hillside facing the capital, stands a 1 ha vineyard, the largest in Ile-de-France and the only one with full legal status and permission to market its wine.
[ Practical ]
- By road
5 km from Paris Porte Maillot on Allée de Longchamps, Pont de Suesnes and Bouleverd Henri Seillier.
- By train
Train from Saint Lazare to Suresnes Mont Valerien station, located near the American cemetery and the Memorial. The journey takes 15 minutes.
- By tram
Tram from La Defense RER to Suresnes Longchamps station located near the Mont Valerien and the vineyard.
- By bus
Bus 244 departing from Porte Maillot goes through Suresnes and passes near the vineyard and by the garden city.
- Bed and breakfast
Les Jardins de Camille
Les Jardins de Camille (nice view)
Au Père Lapin (nice view)
La Feuille de Vigne
All sights are within walking distance.
2010 Grape harvest festival
October 2dn and 3rd
4 rue du Pas Saint Maurice.
Mont Valérien Fort
Open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
Tel : 0141445213
Memorial de la France Combattante
Place de l’Abbé Frantz Stock
Guided tours on Sunday and bank holidays at 3 pm and 4.30 pm from April 1st to September 30th, at 3 pm from October 1st to March 31st. On request the other days. Closed on Monday.
Tel : 0147284635
190 boulevard Washington.
Open daily from 9 am to 5 pm.
- Suresnes tourist office
50 boulevard Henri Seillier.
Tel : 0141181876
- Hauts-de-Seine tourist office
Long viticultural tradition
According to the specialists, it also the region’s best vintage. A fruity and mineral white made from sauvignon and chardonnay grapes that you can buy from the Tourist Office or from the winery at the price of €9,50 a bottle. Created in 1965 and owned by the municipality, this estate perpetuates a long viticultural tradition. First wine stocks were indeed planted by Romans in the 3rd century AC and in the 15th century, the surgeon in charge of Hôtel-Dieu, the ancient hospital beside Notre Dame cathedral, used to recommend all his patients to drink Suresnes wine. But, due to urban sprawl, the vineyards disappeared little by little from the end of 19th century and nowadays they have given way to residential buildings and wealthy houses.
Besides, in 1917 one of the town’s hillsides was granted to United States to establish a military cemetery. It’s one of the smallest of the eleven American cemeteries situated in France and the only one where rest in peace soldiers of the two world wars.
American cemetary © T.Joly
However, most of the 1500 graves hold victims of the first one or of the 1918 - 1919 Spanish flu pandemic. Dotted with a graceful chapel looking like a Greek temple and set in an idyllic location from where you can see not only the Eiffel tower but also the Sacré Coeur of Montmartre, this cemetery is a charming and moving place. Nearby, two restaurants give the possibility to enjoy the same view while having lunch.
But the view is even more outstanding a few steps away, from the top of 169 m high Mont Valérien. Dominating the town and the surroundings, it is crowned by a fort built from 1840 and 1846 to protect the western side of Paris from possible English invasion. It is still in use by the French Army Signal Corps, but it is nevertheless open to public few days a week.
Mémorial de la France Combattante © T.Joly
Inside, visitors can visit the Musée de la Colombophilie, devoted to carrier pigeons used for message delivery during wars, a powerful 19th century cannon able to fire 100 kg shells up to 9 km and a beautiful residence in neo-classical style for the orphans of the Legion of Honor built by order of Napoleon 1st. It replaced the church and the monastery that previously stood at the summit and where Thomas Jefferson did several short stays while he was Ambassador to France, between 1784 and 1789. During WWII, the fort became a German jail where more than 1000 Resistance fighters and hostages were assassinated. A monument and the chapel where they were detained before execution perpetuate their memory. You can have a look at them while visiting the Mémorial de la France Combattante, an impressive monument devoted to the people who struggled for France’s freedom that is located below the south wall of the fort, nearby the American cemetery.
100 m long and topped by a cross of Lorraine cross, French Free Forces’ symbol, it bears sixteen bronze high reliefs each one created by a different artist and evoking various events and battles of the war during which died the fighters buried In the crypt. Each year, this monument hosts an important official ceremony on June 18th, the day General De Gaulle launched its famous 1940 BBC call to rally for resistance, the “Appeal of June 18”.
Suresnes is also known for its garden city, a concept of urban development popular in the 20s and 30th that advocated social diversity and pushed some hygienist ideas into practice. It is the work of Socialist Henri Seillier, mayor of the town from 1919 to 1941, a great figure of town planning in France and a fervent supporter of this kind of housing. Located on the southern part of the town, near the Saint Cloud racecourse, this district includes collective buildings, which house 4/5 of the nearly 10 000 residents, and individual houses.
Jean Villar theatre © T.Joly
As in all garden cities, a large area is reserved for green spaces and public services are numerous. A residence for senior citizens, a nursery, a care centre for infants, two school complexes and one of Ile-de-France’s most famous stages, the Jean Villar theatre, originally a leisure centre that offered cultural and educational activities to the population. In addition, there was a hostel for single persons and a washhouse as till 1948 not all accommodation had washing facilities. Thanks to private donations, a church was also built, Notre Dame de la Paix, but it was never completed and that’s why it has no bell tower. Every year this neighbourhood hosts a Grape Harvest Festival featuring street performances and concerts while wine tasting takes place in the vineyard.
If you are interested in this kind of architecture, a few similar buildings are scattered around town.
The most remarkable one is the Paul Langevin secondary school, of which the swimming pool and gymnasium are listed as historical monuments. Also worth a detour, the Ecole en Plein Air (Open Air School) was designed for tuberculous children and equipped with adjustable glass walls and terraces in order to take advantage of the sunlight necessary to the their well being.
Lastly, don’t leave the town without having a look at the Village Anglais (English Village), so called by Suresnes’ inhabitants because the houses of this small planned community reminded them England. Built in the 20s, they all have similar facades and roofs, yet each one remains unique. They are nested near the bank of the Seine where once stood several popular dance venues and drinking establishments called guingettes. Unfortunately, they all have disappeared and been replaced with a busy road. If you wish to relax by the river, just cross the bridge and you will get to the more peaceful Bois de Boulogne.
September 27, 2010