One of our goals for our time here is to explore Paris from top to bottom. Since we've been here before and have seen all the main sights, we are drawn to places and things we haven't seen. Over the years we've read guide books, pored over maps and searched and researched on-line, so in the back of my brain there is a half-formed list of places to visit that I've seen or heard about, but actually know very little. One such place was the Bois de Boulogne. I don't recall how I learned of its existence - perhaps just from perusing a map, but I knew it was big, it wasn't far, and I wanted to see it, so I looked it up.
As an aside, one of the things that never ceases to amaze me when I start researching things, is the history attached to these places. It boggles my mind, really; and it fascinates me to no end that right here, right now in 2011, I can stand in the same spot as someone did 100 years ago, 300 years ago, 600 years ago and in some cases, nearly 1000 years ago. And even though this sounds like maybe I've been smoking duck feathers, I feel a sort of connection to the past if I stop and think about it. And I want to stop and think about it. I want to try to imagine who was here, why they were here, what they wore, what their life was like. And it makes me wonder if in 1000 years, someone from the future will be standing in the same spot, admiring the same cathedral, or path through the woods and thinking about all those who came before them. It's so strange to think that we are only separated by time and not space. It makes me realize how important it is to preserve the past and present for those in the future.
As I was saying, I did a little research about Bois de Boulogne, and I learned a few things. I'll share them here and put them in a handy dandy list so you can skip the facts and go straight to the photos if you want.
- Bois de Boulogne is located on the north-west side of Paris in an area that once was a vast oak forest. In the 13th century, the area was purchased back from monks by Philip Augustus and used as a Royal Hunting Reserve. Louis XI reforested the area and named it Bois de Boulogne in the 15th century. Henry IV planted 15,000 mulberry trees hoping to start a local silk industry in the now fenced-in hunting park and in 1852, Napolean III created the park.
- Baron Haussmann was hired to design the park (and that of Bois de Vincennes, the Bois de Boulogne sister park on the south-east side of Paris) in the style of the great parks in London.
- There are 22 miles of foot paths, 4 miles of cycling paths and 18 miles of riding paths
- The upper and lower lakes are man-made - the excavated dirt was used to create Butte Montmartre (who knew!?)
- The park covers an area of 3.3 square miles
- There is an amusement park inside the Bois de Boulogne and at night it is transformed into a red light district
|Pont Mirabeau - it was a very cold and gray day - I wasn't too inspired to take my hands out of my pockets before we reached the Seine! Oh...and see the Statue of Liberty in the middle of the river? Ours is bigger! :)|
|On the other side of Pont Mirabeau - the Seine isn't just fun and games|
At Porte Molitor we crossed the Périphérique - the dual ring road that separates the city proper of Paris and its suburbs. The speed limit is 50 mph and if you can travel at the speed limit (this is rare as it is generally congested!), each loop takes about 26 minutes.
|Crossing the Périphérique - not too busy on a Sunday morning!|
As usual, we got a little sidetracked. Because we ended up one major boulevard south of the Bois de Boulogne entrance, we walked past the Jardin des Serres d'Auteuil, so naturally, instead of walking along the sidewalk past Roland Garros, we thought a walk through the garden would be nicer!
|The Palm House|
Turns out, this was a really nice garden, again with some history. The Jardin des Serres d'Auteuil is what is left of the plant nurseries of King Louis XV. The Palm House was designed by Camille Formigé; it was built between 1895-1898 and it is about 324 feet long and 40 feet wide. The Auteuil hothouses are still used for indoor plants, collection plants and for plants that decorate offices and public places.
|The Palm House with lovely cranes in the background|
The Jardin des Poètes is adjacent to the Jardin des Serres d'Auteuil, but we didn't know it at the time. We thought it was a continuation of the Jardin des Serres d'Auteuil, so we missed the plaques dedicated to French poets in the lawn and the sculptures. We did see the lovely gate with sculptures on our way out though!
|Buds ready to burst|
|I don't know this shrub but it was covered in fabulous yellow blooms! Lovely on a gray day and mostly barren flower beds.|
|I also don't know this one, but this tree was in full bloom!|
We crossed Avenue de la Porte d'Auteuil and wandered into Bois de Boulogne. After the green and signs of spring in the Poet's Garden, the Bois de Boulogne was a different world.
|A wintry scene - leafless tress, few people in the park|
|Men playing Boules|
|A lovely path leading to the lakes|
|Once in the lakes area, there were a lot more people around; families and people out for a Sunday stroll|
|Moi! There was some construction along the north end of Lac Superieur and we had to cross to Lac Inferieur in a round-about way. Not sure why Ron had the camera, but he snapped a photo of me to prove I'm really here!|
|Lac Inferieur with view of Tour Eiffel|
|Boating on Lac Inferieur|
|Lac Inferieur has two small islands and from the larger of the two, you can rent boats. Lots of families were out taking advantage of the nice day (it wasn't raining!).|
This is titled Bois de Boulogne Part I because we saw only a fraction of Bois de Boulogne. We decided to reserve Part II for the spring and visit the west side of the park and the flower gardens when they are planted and blooming. Stay tuned for Part II!