Parc Montsouris

Parc Montsouris

Located to the south of the city, in the 14th arrondissement of Paris, is a spectacular park which seems to be under the radar for tourists and many Parisians alike. Overall, the Parc Montsouris encompasses 15 hectares in space (37 acres), and the design of the park was modeled as a traditional English Landscape garden.

Originally the site of a former granite quarry, Parc Montsouris was then redeveloped and opened in 1869 under Emperor Napoleon III and Baron Haussmann. However, whilst creating the park, there came some slightly morbid issues. Underneath where the park is today was a network of tunnels and abandoned mines, which had been filled with human skeletons. Therefore, before the work could continue, the human remains had to be removed and placed elsewhere – nice! In conjunction with the Parc des Buttes Chaumont, Bois de Vincennes and Bois de Boulogne, the Parc Montsouris is one of the four large parks that surround the city.

 The Parc Montsouris is a wonderful place to come for a promenade, picnic and relaxation. At the centre of the park is a charming lake which is home to a wide variety of bird-species, including swans and wildfowl. The park also contains an abundance of wide lawns, a cascade and large variety of plants, including around 150 different species of trees.

 A notable feature of the park is the vast selection of sculptures placed Strategically throughout the landscape. As you walk around the different parts of the park, every now and then a piece of sculpture will emerge from behind a tree or vista. Many of these public sculptures date to as far back as the mid-19th century, with many created during the 1960s.

A visit to Parc Montsouris is a definite must – being the perfect place to relax and walk around the landscape. It is such a hidden gem within the southern part of the city, and one could easily spend a whole day there enjoying the environment (and weather hopefully, depending on when you go!)

 

 

 

A return to Rainy Paris

A return to Rainy Paris

After being back in England for a month, last weekend I was headed back to Paris.Sadly it was only for a weekend, but any amount of time spent in Paris is sure to be appreciated. Despite having lived there for the past year and calling it my home, as I boarded the plane I couldn’t help but feel a little nervous. This time I was somewhat of an outsider – I was no longer the current au pair, and so it felt a little different visiting the city that had stolen my heart.

Despite these minor worries, I was super excited to get back to the city of Lights and couldn’t wait! Although the weather throughout the entire weekend was pretty awful – rain everyday – I still had a wonderful time meeting with some of my closest and dearest friends who still live in Paris, as well as spending time with my au pair family. As soon as I stepped off the metro to meet one of my French friends, I knew that I was home. There’s something about Paris that has me longing to go back. I had also missed speaking and hearing French a lot, and it was only after spending a month away was I able to appreciate how much I had learnt and could understand. Much more than I had previously thought!

Due to the dismal weather, I wasn’t able to visit most of the places I had hoped to see. So, I’m definitely going to have to go back soon to do some more exploring! But hey, who can complain – most of my weekend was spent Cafe hopping and eating some delicious food!

Paris Notre-Dame Cathedral

Paris bridge/pont

Palais Garnier, Opéra national de Paris, Paris

Parc de Bagatelle, Paris

Parc de Bagatelle, Paris

The Bois de Boulogne has a little secret, one that many people do not know about. It’s the Parc de Bagatelle, located to the left of the park near the River Seine. This fantastic park is one of the city’s four botanical gardens, and should definitely be on your list of places to visit in Paris.

Within the park, there are numerous things to see and you could easily pass a few hours exploring all the different parts of the park. The expansive landscape of the Parc de Bagatelle is predominately designed in a mix of Anglo-Chinese style. As you wander around the park, you will also stumble upon some hidden gems; including several artificial caves and cascades to look from, grottoes to explore and ponds with water lilies. Oh, and you’ll also notice the beautiful Peacocks who roam freely around the park. If you don’t see them in person, I’m sure you’ll come across one or two of their feathers lying around!

The Parc de Bagatelle is also home to a small neoclassical Château – the Château de Bagatelle. Constructed originally as a place to stay whilst hunting within the Bois de Boulogne, the Château has an interesting history.

In 1777 Marie-Antoinette wagered against the Count of Artois that it was impossible to build a palace with a park in less than three months. In attempt to win the bet, the Count of Artois appointed architect François-Joseph Bélanger and Scottish landscape designer Thomas Blaikie to create the Château. And by Jove – they won! The Château and the surrounding park was built in just 64 days, making Marie-Antoinette loser of the bet. I have no idea what it meant to lose, so it would be interesting to see what the outcome was for Marie-Antoinette in this wager!

Despite being relatively unknown to tourists, and perhaps even Parisians alike, the park’s Rose Garden is one of its best-known features. Here one can admire the amazing array of roses within the garden. As you walk around, you cannot but be overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of all the flowers – and the smell! If you come at the right time during the summer when the roses are in full bloom, the smell of the different species is captivating. In fact, in the Rose Garden there is an estimated 10,000 rose bushes of 1,200 different varieties – that’s a whole lot of rose! Every June there is an international competition for new roses, Concours international de roses nouvelles de Bagatelle.

Also located in the Rose Garden is the Orangerie. Built in 1865, the Orangerie is a classical-style building where concerts are held throughout the year.

Overlooking the Rose Garden is a sweet Victorian style Pavilion, the Kiosque de l’Impératrice. Located at the top of a small mound, the Kiosque is a great place to sit, relax and take in the beautiful surroundings.

The English connections don’t stop at the style of the park however. In 1853 the park was sold to an English man, Francis Seymour-Conway, 3rd Marquess of Hertford and was eventually left to Sir Richard Wallace upon Lord Hertford’s death in 1870. During this period, the Château contained a large collection of French artwork, much of which came from the Wallace Collection in London.

The Parc de Bagatelle is definitely one of the best-kept secrets of Paris. When my Mum and I visited, we had a wonderful day walking around the different areas of the park and smelling all the beautiful roses. The park was completely quiet; in fact, at some moments it was just the peacocks and us! It was as if we had gone back in time when it was a private park, and we were just going for a leisurely afternoon stroll.

Parc de Bagatelle, Paris, Paris Park, Gate

Parc de Bagatelle, Paris, Paris Park, Things to do Paris, Rose Garden, Flowers

Parc de Bagatelle, Paris, Paris Park, Things to do Paris, Rose Garden, Flowers

Parc de Bagatelle, Paris, Paris Park, Things to do Paris, Rose Garden, Flowers

Parc de Bagatelle, Paris, Paris Park, Things to do Paris, Rose Garden, Flowers

Parc de Bagatelle, Paris, Paris Park, Things to do Paris, Rose Garden, Flowers

Parc de Bagatelle, Paris, Paris Park, Things to do Paris, Rose Garden, Flowers, Peacocks

Parc de Bagatelle, Paris, Paris Park, Things to do Paris, Rose Garden, Flowers

Parc de Bagatelle, Paris, Paris Park, Things to do Paris, Rose Garden, Flowers

Parc de Bagatelle, Paris, Paris Park, Things to do Paris,Parc de Bagatelle, Paris, Paris Park, Things to do Paris,

Parc de Bagatelle, Paris, Paris Park, Things to do Paris

Parc de Bagatelle, Paris, Paris Park, Things to do Paris

Parc de Bagatelle, Paris, Paris Park, Things to do Paris

Parc de Bagatelle, Paris, Paris Park, Things to do Paris

Parc de Bagatelle, Paris, Paris Park, Things to do ParisParc de Bagatelle, Paris, Paris Park, Things to do Paris

Parc de Bagatelle, Paris, Paris Park, Things to do Paris

The hippest garden in Paris? – Les Jardins du Ruisseau

The hippest garden in Paris? – Les Jardins du Ruisseau

Up in the 18th arrondissement, Paris has a little secret – Les Jardins du Ruisseau. As part of La Petite Ceinture (‘the Little Belt’), the former railway route has been opened to the public, with many of the old train stations having been redeveloped. It is here that the previous Gare de Charonne has been reconverted into a chic new restaurant and the delightful Jardins du Ruisseau are situated. After being used as a landfill site, in 1998 it was proposed to turn this space into a garden for schools and the community.

After much expansion and redevelopment, Les Jardins du Ruisseau is now a small haven. Maintained by volunteers and local schools, the Jardins du Ruisseau has become a great place to come for a walk. As you wander up and down the garden along the train tracks, you’ll see a variety of flowers and plants. There are even seats and tables where you can bring your own food and enjoy a lovely picnic in the sun. The Jardins du Ruisseau is a delightfully sweet place, taking you from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Throughout the year the Jardins du Ruisseau opens its doors to a variety of different events; including live shows, education events and exhibitions. There seems to be an incredibly strong social bond at the Jardins du Ruisseau, and I definitely recommend spending some time here. During the summer, the gardens are open Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday.

After wandering around the sweet Jardins du Ruisseau, head on up to the hip restaurant/café La Recyclerie. Originally a former train station, La Recyclerie has fast become one of the places to go and hangout at in Paris. Here you can wine and dine overlooking the spectacular Jardins du Ruisseu and former train tracks, or even relax on the terrace if the weather is nice. Not only is the food and drinks great at La Recyclerie, but there are a lots of things happening here – for example, there is a permanent DIY workshop situated within the former train station called Chez René. Here you can learn the tricks of the trade when it comes to restoring timeless pieces. There are also heaps of pop-up shops that are often set up along the train track in conjunction to the La Recyclerie, so definitely check out their website to see what’s coming up.

Les Jardins du Ruisseau, ParisLes Jardins du Ruisseau, ParisLes Jardins du Ruisseau, ParisLes Jardins du Ruisseau, Paris

 

Paris off-the-beaten-path: 5 things to see & do in the Summer

Paris off-the-beaten-path: 5 things to see & do in the Summer

Summer in Paris is truly magical, and it’s definitely a great time of year to come and visit the city. However, with this, comes a mass of tourists into Paris. But do no fret! For this blog post will show you some of the lesser-known sights of the city, meaning that you’ll be able to avoid those crowds who flock into Paris in the summer.

The Promenade Plantée, Paris

Escape the rush, and stroll along the Promenade Plantée

The Promenade Plantée offers walkers an unparalleled and unique experience. Often off the beaten-track for tourists, the promenade provides visitors with expansive views of the city – you become one with the various buildings and architecture, yet remain a flâneur simultaneously. It is a surreal experience – hardly do you find a place within a capital city wherein you feel totally separated from the buzz and rush; but whilst uniquely being right in the middle of it.

Ascend the mysterious La Tour Saint-Jacques, Paris, Paris Views Landscape

Ascend the mysterious La Tour Saint-Jacques

Throughout the summer months, the Tour Saint-Jacques opens its doors to visitors, to allow the public to ascend up and to marvel at its magnificent views.

Standing at over 200 feet high (nearly 50 feet higher than the Arc de Triomphe), la Tour Saint-Jacques offers visitors some of the most amazing views that I have ever seen of Paris. Not only are the views sublime, with the vantage point at the very top provides a 360-degree view of the Parisian landscape. From there, you can pretty much see everything (weather permitting).

La Tour Saint-Jacques is still relatively unknown to tourists, and even to many Parisians – meaning that it is a definite must for those wanting to escape the rush of crowds in the city and get the best view of Paris.

If you’re interested in reserving a place on the guided tour up la Tour Saint-Jacques, head over to the website here.

Lac Inferieur in the Bois de Boulogne, Paris, Paris Park, Summer

Promenade along Lac Inferieur in the Bois de Boulogne

Situated southeast of the Bois de Boulogne, the Lac Inferieur is the largest lake within the park. It is a delightful scene, where two manmade islands are a joined by bridge, but can only be accessed via boat. Walking along the woody trails surrounding the lake, one is guaranteed to see a unique part of Paris.

Located on one of the islands of Lac Inferieur is Chalet des Iles. As previously mentioned, this Chalet is truly enchanting. To access, visitors must take a boat across the lake, at the mere €1.50 for a round trip. Here at le Chalet des Îles, one can have a delicious meal in the restaurant, or relax by the lakeside at the bar. You don’t just have to go to the Chalet to eat, you can also explore the two islands, and perhaps enjoy a home-made picnic amongst the trees.

An absolute must when visiting either the Chalet des Îles and Lac Inferieur is to rent a rowing boat! Whilst during Napoleon III reign, rowing was reserved for the social elite; nowadays anyone can enjoy this leisurely activity. Renting a boat on Lac Inferieur was absolutely fantastic. Not only is it a really fun activity to take part in (despite myself being incredibly rubbish at rowing), but it’s a great way to see the Lake and explore the islands too.

To get Lac Inferieur and le Chalet des Îles, the nearest Metro stop is either La Muette or Rue de la Pompe. Alternatively, you can just head towards the Bois de Boulogne and enjoy exploring the park! You definitely won’t see many tourists here.

Rose Garden of Parc de Bagatelle, Bois de Boulogne, Paris

Visit the magnificent Rose Garden of Parc de Bagatelle

Also located in the Bois de Boulogne, the Parc de Bagatelle Rose Garden is one of Paris’ best-kept secrets. Filled with around 10,000 rose bushes of 1,200 different varieties, with the annual international competition for new roses, Concours international de roses nouvelles de Bagatelle, the Rose Garden of Parc de Bagatelle is a great place to escape the rush of the city tourists.

Walking around the garden, one cannot but be overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of all the flowers – and the smell! If you come at the right time during the summer when the roses are in full bloom, the smell of the different species is captivating.

Also located in the Rose Garden is the Orangerie. Built in 1865, the Orangerie is a classical-style building where concerts are held throughout the year. Overlooking the Rose Garden is a sweet Victorian style Pavilion, the Kiosque de l’Impératrice. Located at the top of a small mound, the Kiosque is a great place to sit, relax and take in the beautiful surroundings.

So if you’re ever in Paris during the summer, or just fancy seeing a new part of the city, I without a doubt recommend heading over to experience the beauty of the Parc de Bagatelle Rose Garden yourself.

Les Jardins du Ruisseau, Paris Garden, Paris

Wander around Les Jardins du Ruisseau and eat at a disused train station

Up in the 18th arrondissement, Paris has a little secret – Les Jardins du Ruisseau. As part of La Petite Ceinture (‘the Little Belt’), the former railway route has been opened to the public, with many of the old train stations having been redeveloped. It is here that the previous Gare de Charonne has been reconverted into a chic new restaurant and the delightful Jardins du Ruisseau are situated. After being used as a landfill site, in 1998 it was proposed to turn this space into a garden for schools and the community.

After much expansion and redevelopment, Les Jardins du Ruisseau is now a small haven. Maintained by volunteers and local schools, the Jardins du Ruisseau has become a great place to come for a walk. As you wander up and down the garden along the train tracks, you’ll see a variety of flowers and plants. There are even seats and tables where you can bring your own food and enjoy a lovely picnic in the sun. The Jardins du Ruisseau is a delightfully sweet place, taking you from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Throughout the year the Jardins du Ruisseau opens its doors to a variety of different events; including live shows, education events and exhibitions. There seems to be an incredibly strong social bond at the Jardins du Ruisseau, and I definitely recommend spending some time here.

During the summer, the gardens are open Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday.

After wandering around the sweet Jardins du Ruisseau, head on up to the hip restaurant/café La Recyclerie. Originally a former train station, La Recyclerie has fast become one of the places to go and hangout at in Paris. Here you can wine and dine overlooking the spectacular Jardins du Ruisseu and former train tracks, or even relax on the terrace if the weather is nice. Not only is the food and drinks great at La Recyclerie, but there are a lots of things happening here – for example, there is a permanent DIY workshop situated within the former train station called Chez René. Here you can learn the tricks of the trade when it comes to restoring timeless pieces. There are also heaps of pop-up shops that are often set up along the train track in conjunction to the La Recyclerie, so definitely check out their website to see what’s coming up.

 

Anish Kapoor exposition at the Palace of Versailles

Anish Kapoor exposition at the Palace of Versailles

This summer, visitors to the Palace of Versailles Gardens are welcomed with a nice surprise. Located around the estate are the works of English sculptor, Anish Kapoor, which will be there until 1st November 2015.

Known for his world-famous sculptures including the Cloud Gate in Chicago’s Millennium Park (also known as ‘the Bean’) and the 2012 London Olympics observation tower, ArvelorMittal Orbit in the Olympic Park, there is something very interactive and interesting about Kapoor’s work. I, myself, have been fortunate to have seen many of his works in person prior to seeing them scattered around the royal gardens of Versailles.

Since June 9th, the Palace of Versailles has opened its grounds to some of Kapoor’s well-known works. The six sculptures on display around the estate create an interesting and complex dialogue with the pristine order of the gardens, in which Kapoor aims to “upset the balance and invite chaos in”, which I believe he has certainly achieved.

As previously mentioned, Kapoor’s works are extremely interactive, using the viewer to bring the artwork to life. The captivating sculptures on display enable viewers to explore a variety of dualities, engaging with the different boundaries of the present and past Versailles.

On first glance, Kapoor’s ultra-modern sculptures do look somewhat out of place, but on closer inspection and interaction, perhaps they work better than first anticipated within the environment of the Palace of Versailles.

Two of the most interactive sculptures on exhibit are located closest to the Chateau on the terrace. Sky Mirror (2013) immediately confronts visitors at the top of the terrace. Raised up towards the sky, the reflective surface of the sculpture invites viewers to see the landscape and Palace of Versailles from new angles. When I first saw Sky Mirror I actually thought it was a giant SKY dish!

Located adjacent and within closer proximity to the Palace is C-Curve (2007). The reflective surface of C-Curve turns the environment of Versailles on its head – literally making everything upside down. Thus forcing the viewer to redefine their place within this landscape.

One of the things that I will always think in conjunction with any visit to the Palace of Versailles is tourists – and more importantly, photos. When walking around the Palace and grounds, the amount of people (myself included of course) taking photos and rarely standing to appreciate the sights in view, are extremely high as one can imagine. Therefore, Kapoor and the curators have done something very clever with choosing these two sculptures to be placed on the terrace. The interactive and reflective nature of the sculptures not only bring into focus the surrounding environment of the Palace, but invite visitors in to explore their own relationship within these thresholds.

Another interesting work on display that has received little treatment, is a giant man-made whirlpool located adjacent to the Grand Canal. Titled as Descension (2015), this synthetic whirlpool disrupts the tranquility and composure of the gardens, enticing viewers into this mesmerizing violent vortex.

However, the main attraction of the exhibition – both in sizing and press-coverage – is the enormous Dirty Corner (2011), located between the Grand Canal and the Palace. A vast steel funnel that rises from scattered stone, as if emerging and ripping up from the ground, Dirty Corner has become one of the main focal pieces of the exhibition. According to Kapoor, Dirty Corner symbolizes ‘the vagina of the queen who is taking power’, but which Queen is that exactly? Well, that is left up for debate. Evidently this work has been placed with much thought and deliberation, facing towards the Palace wherein the massive funnel opens towards the Chateau.

Controversy concerning Dirty Corner did not stop at the various symbolic meanings behind the work. The work came under fire of vandals who attacked the sculpture with yellow spray paint. Having come under scrutiny, Dirty Corner has caused some disapproval within different political parties of France. Kapoor recently stated that political violence and artistic violence are not the same, and therefore should not be treated with the same connotations. Whereas Kapoor’s artwork “follows a long tradition of regeneration” advancing “the language of art”, the use of vandalism in the name of politics merely “seeks erasure” with the “aim of the removal of the offending idea, person, practice or thing.” With the sculpture cleaned up, the mere act of vandalism serves to show for Kapoor that “simplistic political viewers are offended by the untidiness of art.”

However, I cannot but help think that this act of vandalism brings back those notions so ardently protested back in the wake of Charlie Hebdo – surely this was an act on freedom of expression?

Dirty Corner has certainly caused a stir in the art world, and within the life of the Palace of Versailles. The debate concerning the said ‘Queen’ who Dirty Corner represents is up for discussion. What is interesting is the dialogue in which Dirty Corner creates within the Palace and the surrounding gardens.

Notwithstanding all the different messages and interpretations produced by the sculptures, I really enjoyed walking around the grounds and seeing Kapoor’s sculptures on show. The interactive nature of the works invites viewers to engage with the sculptress, and create an interesting addition to the controlled environment of the Palace of Versailles. Whether you’re coming for a picnic in the gardens or to explore the Chateau itself, I definitely recommend wandering around the gardens to see these works for yourself. Don’t forget to ask yourself whether Dirty Corner is as controversial as the press makes out – I’d like to hear your thoughts on it.

The Anish Kapoor at the Palace of Versailles exhibition closes 1st November 2015.

You can find more information about the exhibition here on the Chateau de Versailles website.

 

Sky Mirror (2013), Anish Kapoor

C-Curve (2007), Anish Kapoor

Dirty Corner (2011), Anish Kapoor

Descension (2015), Anish Kapoor