As much as a lot of French people love to hate Paris and to hate the suburbs of Paris even more, the region continues to attract more and more people, hungry for absolutely any scrap of real estate within 50 kilometres of Paris.
And yet there is a village that was abandoned 40 years ago, only 25 kilometres from Paris. I have read a lot of things about it, and I even read a novel that was set there, based on the weirdness of the experience. But I had never actually gone to see it until yesterday. I wasn't even sure if it was accessible, but it turned out that it was.
I found a place to park the car and I began to wander.
The bookstore is gone, but I was astonished by the racks of free books left for the taking.
There are still a few residents, which makes the experience perhaps even creepier.
So, this is "Goussainville-Vieux Pays" also known as "Goussainville-Vieux Village." In 1973, just about every property in the village was bought by the Paris Airports Authority (Aéroports de Paris) in preparation of the opening of Charles de Gaulle Airport in 1974. Obviously, the village was right in the flight path of the majority of the planes.
It is the airport that plugged all of the doors of the buildings that it bought, which obviously drove out most of the other people and 100% of the businesses. The whole place became a no man's land. But a few people stayed, because people tend to do such unpredictable things.
What's more, over the years, it became less unbearable to live there, since airplanes have become more silent. I really must admit that I found the airplane noise in the village to be totally bearable, but I know that one must also take into consideration the fact that noise rarely bothers me. So I would probably have been one of those rare holdouts in the first place.
Anyway, the rest of the city (because there is more to Goussainville than just the old part) started taking an interest in the old part in 1983. There were plans to build hotels (since airport hotels are soundproofed anyway), but nothing was ever done because Goussainville bore the mark of its tragedy 10 years earlier. In June 1973, the pride of Soviet aviation, the TU-144 supersonic jet, rival of the Concorde, crashed right on top of the town of Goussainville.
So the town continued to fall into ruin. But in 2009, the airport sold the 144 buildings that it had bought back to the city of Goussainville for 1 euro. It also paid 700,000 euros to renovate the church and 1.6 million curos to put things back in order in the village. While the village is still classified as an "intense noise zone," clearly there are some loopholes that have allowed people to move back there, and I saw workers preparing other houses for habitation as well.
But there is something that I missed during my visit -- the château of Goussainville. I didn't know that it existed, but I quickly discovered it during my research. It is one of the buildings that the airport bought and sold back, but it is already beyond help, apparently. But I fully intend to return and see it for myself one of these days. It is somewhere just above the church on the hill.
I was thinking what a great piece of luck the accident was for Aéroports de Paris in terms of convincing the recalcitrants to sell their houses before CDG opened. It definitely confirms the saying about someone's tragedy always making somebody else happy.
I found the walk through this ghost village extremely interesting. I have to ask...those abandoned books in their bookcases - were they damaged, the worse for wear, or did they look like someone is constantly replacing them as they dwindle???
Even though it's now peeling plaster, wooden beams rotted and their roofs caved in, old rusted shutters and ironwork - one can still imagine what a pretty little village this must have been.
Kerouac, I hope you do go back and explore the chateau. Were you driving the yellow car, the blue car or the silver car? ;D
I have to ask...those abandoned books in their bookcases - were they damaged, the worse for wear, or did they look like someone is constantly replacing them as they dwindle???
Were you driving the yellow car, the blue car or the silver car? ;D
The books were in perfect condition, so it is clearly an established book exchange programme. There is one at the Cent Quatre near me and I keep telling myself that I need to take a load of books there but I constantly forget.
My car does not appear in the report because there was a small parking lot right across from the abandoned bookstore where an unabandoned community center is located. It looks like it was built recently, so I suppose that it is part of the 'revival' of the abandoned part of town.
Interestingly enough, there was an item on the news today about a similar town in Belgium -- the village of Doel next to Antwerp. It was expropriated for expanding the port, except that the port expansion never took place. Apparently the ghost town has become a major tourist attraction, but 27 people still live there.
That's an excellent report by France 24. As I mentioned in my report, I saw that the village was slowly coming back to life, but things would go much faster if the city of Goussainville would rehabilitate a section of old town with all of the free 1€ houses that they bought and put in some needy families.
I need to return one of these days to see what has come back to life. There was a certain amount of work going on back when I made my report, and I'm sure that quite a bit of progress must have been made since then.
Looking at this report again, I saw that I absolutely must return to see what has happened. There have been a number of reports over the years about the town being repopulated because the airport lost interest in it, and modern airplanes are not making as much noise as in the past.