(c) 2007 Chris Card Fuller Spring Tulips. All rights reserved.
If you plan on being in Paris in the spring, you can’t miss the parks. (There are over 400 parks, gardens, and squares in and around Paris). While some of the formal French gardens like Luxembourg Gardens and Tuileries may still have empty flower beds, you might want to explore the English-style gardens at Parc Montsouris and Parc Buttes Chaumont.Parc Montsouris (RER stop Cite Universitaire) is a popular jogging park for students who live across the street in the Cite Universitaire dormitory complex which was built specifically for foreign students studying in Paris.
Take the Metro to the stop: Denfert Rochereau. Then, you can catch the RER at Denfert. The next stop is Cite Universitaire. Because you’re still in the city proper, you don’t need to use an additional Metro ticket. You can walk from Denfert along Avenue Rene Coty to the park’s lower entrance.
The English ‘romantic style’ garden designed by Jean-Charles Alphand during the Second Empire (19th century) differs from formal 17th century gardens like the Tuileries in that the layout is less about balance and equilibrium than it is about following the natural ebb and flow of nature -and your own energy level – narrow paths take you up slopes landscaped with trees planted as they would be in nature. Part of this dense vegetation was originally meant to camouflage an eyesore – old railroad tracks.
A lake with swans at the middle of the park is the focal point for many of the Moms and au pairs who come with their charges.
In the spring, there’s not a more romantic place to be – with the exception of Buttes Chaumont which is built in a similar way to Parc Montsouris but on a larger scale. Of the two parks, Parc Montsouris is my favorite – chauvinistically speaking – because it’s in the 14th arrondissement. And I like the fact that it’s smaller and easy to explore. If you exit on the Rue Mousanty/Avenue Reille side of the park, you’ll discover an enclave of narrow streets that climb upward toward the reservoir. Here you are likely to stumble upon some artists’ lofts and architectural gems (like the Le Corbusier home).
(This is part of the bicycle tour Paris a Velo, C’est Sympa! leading into their 13th arrondissement tour called Paris Insolite or Unusual Paris). They do offer bike tours in English.
Buttes Chaumont, located in the opposite north eastern corner of Paris, is not far from Montmartre Metro: Simon Bolivar or Metro: Buttes Chaumont. Also created by Jean-Charles Alphand, Buttes Chaumont
covers the remains a of a gypsum quarry. If you long for hills in the relatively flat city landscape, this is the park for you. Like Montsouris, twisting, turning paths lead up to pleasant views of the surrounding park. This is an exceptionally good park for picnicking and finding a spot away from the public eye.
Whereas parks like Luxembourg and Tuileries are meant for seeing and being seen – Buttes Chaumont is a nice escape into a 19th-century landscape painting without ever having to leave the Paris city limits.