Monday, September 21, 2015

First Sights of Paris. Jardin des Plantes.



A
 
   fter a very relaxing lunch, Z and I set out to explore Paris. He asked me if I had an itinerary in mind and I did not. I suggested that we make our way to Notre Dame as that would be a nice starting point.

We walked down Rue Moufftard. It's been so many years (I think almost 19) that I was last on this street - I don't remember much about it. Somewhere here was where I got my first taste of Parisian roast chicken and potatoes. It was one of those places where the rotisserie is outside the shop. That day, the chickens were spinning and the fat dripping onto the potatoes beneath. I bought a small piece and some potatoes. One bite and I was transported to a place where chicken is so flavorful, it does the bird justice.  I've not had as delicious a chicken or potatoes since then. 

Today, many of the food stores were closed.  My boulangeries, fromageries, and even the seafood mongers....closed.  I had excitedly told Z about all these places and how we would go to them and I was so hoping we could have kicked off our trip with stops at a few of these places so that the foodie in Z could understand why so many people revere (yes, revere) French food.  I was so disappointed to see so many closed doors.  Thankfully, the patisseries were opened.  Before the day was done, we would visit one.

Z led us past Rue Moufftard.  I had no idea where we were going  but we ended at Jardin des Plantes.  I didn't recognize it first because the last time I was here, I entered from a different location.

Jardin des Plantes is the main botanical garden in Paris.  In addition to plants, it's also home to four museums and a zoo.  It's a very pretty place but then I love French gardens so for me, every garden in France is pretty.  I am a bit biased :-)

In the park, we sat for a few minutes while Z looked at the map on his iPhone and oriented himself.  He had to find the way to get us out of the park.  In the meantime, I was just enjoying the moment of watching the Parisian world go by.  There were few tourists here.


We walked on and I enjoyed the stroll through the green space.



Then, we came to a view I did recognize - a greenhouse.  The garden has four and the first ones were constructed in the 19th century between 1834 and 1836. At that time they were the first large metal and glass greenhouses in the world.  I love their old world charm!   All four greenhouses underwent renovation from 2004 to 2010 and I am certain that under their historic exterior is supported by very modern infrastructure.  Today, we didn't go inside but had I been here with Bro instead of Z, I have no doubt we would have not only gone into this one but we would have gone into the other 3 as well!


Around the corner from the greenhouse is another building I recognized - the Museum of Natural History.  I am sad to say that I have been to Paris more times than I can remember but I have never been to the museum.  I must make an effort to remember these places so I can come visit them on my next trip.  Yes, there will be a next trip!


Lining the walkways in the main garden was an exhibition of whimsical and very colorful sculptures of animals.  The Exhibition is titled, "The Animals of ADN Climate" and is to remind us all of the danger that animals face as a result of climate change.  There are 140 animals, all part off an artistic project called “Climate Noah’s Ark” by French artist Gad Weil.



From the main garden, we may our way to one of the tree lined walkways.  It's views like this that truly evoke Parisian gardens for me.  You can see that every tree is well manicured and tended to.  I really appreciate how the French take the time and effort to do this.  I can imagine that on the weekends or perhaps, on a nice summer evening, this place is popular for Parisians to come to.


As I found a nice bench to sit on and enjoy the view of the garden, Z lined up to use the public bathroom - his first in Paris!


From Jardin des Plantes, we made our way down to the Seine.  I've never walked along this particular stretch of the river but it was a nice walk.  The walkway was broad enough to accommodate for walkers, runners, bikers, rollerbladers etc.  There was plenty of bench seating and steps that led down to the quay.


So, Z asked me why it's called the Left Bank.  Uh....I don't know was my reply.  So I just looked it up.

La Rive Gauche aka The Left Bank is the southern bank of the Seine.  The river flows roughly westward, cutting the city in two.  If you look downstream, the southern bank is to the left, and the northern bank (or Rive Droite) is to the right.

There that should clear things up.

Continuing on.  From the Left Bank, we crossed over one of Paris's many bridges to Île Saint-Louis. Z was taking us to Berthillon, world renown for its ice cream. It's said that if you can only have one ice cream cone in Paris, make sure it comes from Berthillon. The flagship salon is located on Île Saint-Louis at 31 rue Saint-Louis en l’Ile. We found the place but it was not our lucky day. It was closed. We were very disappointed and I told Z that if our sightseeing brings us back to this neighborhood, we'll definitely stop in.

We back tracked towards the bridge we had just crossed and before continuing, I took a photo of our next destination - the one, the only, Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris!


Read about our visit to Notre-Dame in the next posting.