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Posts from the ‘Paris’ Category

le jardin des plantes–did you start your garden before 1635?

“Cela est bien, repondit Candide, mais il faut cultiver notre jardin.” ― Voltaire, “Candide”

“Big? You think that’s big? You know what’s big? Well, let me tell you!”

Le Louvre Musée is big. La Tour Eiffel is big. Sacre Coeur is enormous. Le Jardin du Luxembourg is gigantic. Le Musee d’Orsay is immense. (I am using a Roget’s Thesaurus now.) Le Grand Palais des Champs-Élysées is gargantuan.

Map Jardin

Le Jardin des Plantes is . . . well . . . “of considerable or relatively great size.” Words seem to minimize, do not do justice to, the scale of the garden. Acreage does not really address its size: it is instead the extra-ordinary number of plants and species, all diverse, representing not only France but other areas of the world.

If you enter from the main entrance (recommended) at Place Valhubert, where Quai Saint-Bernard and Boulevard de l’Hôpital converge, you see the large exterior of the Grande Galerie de l’Évolution in the distance. Between you and that Grande Galerie is planted a vast garden.

The Jardin des Plantes has also four museums: the Grande Galerie de l’Évolution, the Mineralogy Museum, the Paleontology Museum, and the Entomology Museum; a small zoo, the Ménagerie du Jardin des Plantes; and a botanical school.


What drew me during my last visit, however, were the Mexican and Australian hothouses. These magnificent glass-and-metal Grandes Serres have been in use since 1714.

Basically, one explores two separate hothouses. After visiting the first, one exits with ticket in hand and walks to the next hothouse and scans the ticket to enter. But wait, there’s more!

le canal saint-martin à Paris

If you locate the Canal Saint-Martin on a map of Paris, you will see that it cuts a slice about 4.5 km long through the northern part of the city. It s-curves from le Parc de la Villette and the Canal de l’Ourcqin in the 19th arrondissement to the Seine River (at the Quai de la Rapée) near the Place de Bastille.

I have walked much of it; it is easy to do. One year I started at the Place de la République and walked toward Villette. Another time I walked from the Oberkampf area to the Place de Bastille.

I remember not enjoying the walk toward Villette. It did not have anything of interest to offer. I remember the buildings lacked color and personality. It seemed vacant and unhospitable.

In the the other direction, however, one can immediately see la richesse of its residents. Apartments facing the Canal rent for several thousand euros per month.

What interests me most is the cover of the Canal Saint-Martin. From the Place de la République and Oberkampf areas, the canal goes under the street level. One can take a boat past some locks, and after descending ride through a tunnel and emerge eventually near the Seine River. But wait, there’s more!

look! up in the sky! it’s . . .

My friend and her husband arrived the previous day. I was already in Paris for some weeks, and had stopped by their hotel near the Place de la République. She wanted to visit before they set about exploring Paris.

I suggested we go to the plaza and sit in the shade à la terrace and order some espressos. “Just as the French do.” Her husband remained in the hotel room and slept.

Do you remember the first time you went to Paris? Or Rome? London? Name your dream city. “Am I really in Paris? This place looks just like the pictures.”

She looked to the right and left and around and back to the right then to the left. She had a little smile all the time. “What do I say? Do I just say coffee?”


I suppose it is natural that first we look around, straight ahead and off to the right and to the left and then swivel. “Un café s’il vous plaît.”

We look down, too. We should anyway, otherwise we will be spreading dog doo with our feet and stumbling into a curb or tripping over a chair leg extending too far onto the sidewalk. “Merci bien.” (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail.) But wait, there’s more!

a quiet sense of peace at la place dauphine

“The world is quiet here.” ― Lemony Snicket

Some years ago, maybe in 2002 or 2003, I learned of a very cheap hotel—Hôtel Henri IV—situated on the Ile de la Cité in the center of Paris. It was surrounded by chic apartments, and its entrance opened onto a quiet plaza, away from the noisy traffic in the busy streets nearby.

How could that be? I went a wandering to see what I could see.

Indeed, I did find a seedy looking entrance and, furthermore, I saw young people with backpacks leaving the hotel. I looked at the posting next to the door; I forget the prices per room then. It was cheap.

Forget about staying there. It does not exist anymore. Recently (August,2016), I went to see again what I could see. The building has been turned into very expensive chic apartments.

Inspector Massau, a good and close friend of George Simenon, the author of the Maigret novels, had a window in his office at the Police Judiciare in the Palais de Justice on la rue de Harlay; it faced the plaza where the hotel was nestled belween the luxury apartments. During the initial investigation of Marcel Petiot, the notorious serial killer during Occupied Paris, he would often pause and look out his window at the plaza. It would calm him.

Yves Montand and Simone Signoret lived on the plaza near the hotel. They sought a quiet solitude at n° 15. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail.) But wait, there’s more!