These 40 miles of picturesque garden canals “or rieux” are blessed with flowered banks, a wide variety of fauna and a peaceful serenity disturbed only by the great crested grebes. It’s not just beauty that visitors can discover among this rich tapestry of canals and gardens – it’s also possible to meet some of the gardeners (hortillons) who have been the soul of the exquisite Hortillonnages for millennia. Like René Nowak, a local gardener for 38 years. Each year, this fertile land provides him with a 35-tonne harvest of pumpkins, in addition to other vegetables – “everything you need to make a good soup,” he says. “Carrots, leaks, turnips, cabbage and celery, as well as vegetables from our past, such as Jerusalem artichokes and parsnips. Here, each market gardener respects nature – for example, we only use natural plant food and horse manure for fertiliser. We must respect our land – it has been created by humans to feed humans”.
Guided visits in traditional boats for 45 minutes from 1st April to 31st October