I've saved up a few experiences that on their own don't warrant an entire post, but strung together just might make a cohesive post. You will have to be the judge of that. First up is my visit to the Buttes Chaumont Park of a week ago.
Buttes Chaumont Park
Buttes Chaumont Park is located in the 19th arrondissement, which is north of us here in the 12th. Since Priscilla was helping Claudia out in her food stall, I decided to take the Metro up to Buttes Chaumont and get some hiking and photography in. Buttes Chaumont is an extremely hilly park, so I definitely got my stair steps in that day. My iPhone says I climbed 34 flights that day while walking nearly 7 miles. The vertical nature of this park yields some fascinating views to photograph. It was a cool, crisp fall day, so I had no trouble walking most of the trails in the park.
Afterward I came upon the neighborhood pétanque courts in full use. This is the French version of bocce ball. They take their pétanque seriously here. The woman shown pitching the ball in this photo had a unique pitching form, and based on the intensity of the conversations when judging whose ball was the closest, she plays for keeps.
The French love a good protest. Lately, a certain faction have been protesting the vaccine mandate. The way it works in France, you need a Pass Sanitaire to get into restaurants, theaters, museums, and public transport (although they rarely check at the train stations). To get a Pass Sanitaire you need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. You can get a temporary one if you present a negative COVID test, but that only lasts for three days. The good news is that France has a high vaccination percentage, with 68% fully vaccinated, and 76% having at least one dose. France also still has a mask mandate in place. It is quite rare to see someone unmasked in an indoor setting, unless they are eating or drinking. Consequently, the case count has come way down in France.
There are folks, though, who don't like the perceived loss of their liberty. Sound familiar? So they protest. Fortunately, the protests we have witnessed have been peaceful. On the day I made this photograph, I was going out for a late afternoon walk before dinner when I came across this protest. There was a significant police presence escorting the protesters, with lots of sirens blaring and chants coming from bullhorns. Soon the protest passed and I went on with my walk.
One of the things I've taken to doing on this trip is to make scouting runs to locations we might be interested in going to but aren't sure whether they warrant the effort. When we get back to Minnesota, Priscilla is due for knee replacement surgery, so we are trying to ensure that when we go out on expeditions, it's worth it. This past week I made two such runs, one to the Bercy neighborhood in Paris and the other to the village of Crécy la Chapelle, which is about 1-1/2 hours away from Paris by regional train.
Crécy La Chapelle is known to have a nice market that runs on Thursday and Sunday mornings. While it is a quaint and picturesque village, the sidewalks weren't terribly pedestrian friendly, so unless the market was a sure thing, I came away thinking we could pass this one by. We tried hard to locate information online about whether the market was currently operating. With COVID, many of the markets have cut back their hours. One website said the Crécy market was running, another said no, and the town's official website didn't have anything about the market, so we opted not to go.
The other scouting mission this past week was to the Bercy neighborhood, which isn't too far from us but isn't terribly easy to get to because of train lines. I read one blog that listed Bercy as one of the highlights worth seeing in the 12th. After making my scouting run there, I have to disagree. To me it was a big meh. Yes, there's an upscale shopping district, but that doesn't excite us. Paris has plenty of upscale shopping districts. So we are not going to make a return visit to Bercy.
I think one of the things that spoils us in Paris is just how many fascinating sights there are all around you. It seems that around every corner there's something of interest. The quaint alleyway in the photo on the left below is practically right next door to the Monoprix store in our neighborhood. The beautiful doorway in the middle photo is the home of local artisans who run some wonderful shops in Paris, called Petit Pan. As it turns out, I traipsed down this same alleyway in 2019 and made one of my favorite photos from that trip (far right below).
And then on my walks on the Coulée Verte, I might pop up or down one of the stairways to see what's street side in that neighborhood. The other day I came across this cool Bel-Air sign on one of those up periscope moments.
So for someone who proudly calls himself a walking fool, Paris is a fabulous city to call home for two months. Of course, I almost always have a camera in hand when I go on these walks. The funny thing is, I don't walk to photograph. If anything, the reverse is true, I photograph to walk. Walking is my favorite way to experience a city or an area. I just start walking.
Yesterday Priscilla and I decided to take in the Vivian Maier photography exhibit at the Musée de Luxembourg. We are both great admirers of her photography. The exhibit is quite extensive and the quality of the prints is exceptional.
Afterward, on a whim, we decided to take a walk through the Luxembourg Gardens. This was our first time there. We had no idea how amazing this place is.
We entered the park right at the beginning of the golden hour. The late day fall sunlight gave an otherworldly glow to everyone and everything it touched. It seemed that all of Paris was in the Luxembourg Gardens this day, perhaps playing chess, or engaging in a tennis match, or simply soaking up the sun.
As a photographer who loves photographing people, I was like a kid in a candy shop. I had great light and fantastic subjects who weren’t paying any attention to me. I’m guessing we’re about a week or two away from peak fall color here, so we will definitely be back to the Luxembourg Gardens. Today we are off on the train to Nantes to visit Anna for the weekend. More on that later.
After seeing our travelers off to their various destinations, yesterday was supposed to be an R&R day for Priscilla and me, but if you know me well you'll know that I don't sit well. So, on a whim, I decided to check out the massive Bois de Vincennes (woods of Vincennes) park that is close to the eastern terminus of the #1 Metro line, the Chateau de Vincennes stop.
As I told Priscilla when I set out, I didn't have high expectations for this park, since you don't tend to read of it in any of the guidebooks, and the reference I found in Wikipedia said the park was known for prostitution after dark. But since I had nothing else planned for the day and was eager to see some fall color in this huge wooded park not too far from us, I set out after lunch. After getting off the #1 Metro at the Chateau de Vincennes station, I walked about half a mile or so through a not so promising looking area that was bounded by the long-of-tooth and walled-off Chateau de Vincennes on one side and the forbidding looking Fort Neuf military base on the other. Eventually I came upon the large Parc Floral de Paris sign at the entrance. The Parc Floral de Paris is located within the Bois de Vincennes. At this point, my expectations were still measured.
Well, I'll get straight to the punch line. My expectations were utterly and completely blown out of the water by the Parc Floral de Paris. Once I got further into the park, I realized that this was not your garden variety floral park (pun intended). Initially I came upon a large wooded area filled with all manner of playground equipment with children playing on them. It seemed around every corner in the woods you'd come upon another set of playground equipment, for all different age groups. Then I found an extensive high-ropes course where a group of young adults were zip-lining across the forest canopy and stair-stepping through the forest in midair. As if that weren't enough, there is a beautiful, glass-walled art gallery on the grounds.
But nothing prepared me for the dahlia gardens. I followed a sign pointing me in that direction, knowing that Priscilla would want reports, I soon came to learn how this park got its name. I entered into one of the largest flower gardens I've ever seen, dedicated strictly to dahlias. Actually there were multiple gardens strung together. The dahlias were in full bloom, with a riot of color everywhere you looked. I knew in an instant that Priscilla and I had to come back while these dahlias are still in bloom.
Originally I went to the Bois de Vincennes in search of fall color. Yes, I saw some fall color, but I was treated to a whole lot more than that in the Parc Floral de Paris. This park is like a giant wooded playground for young and old alike. It just goes to show that you can make the most amazing discoveries when you get off the well-worn tourist path.
P.S. Later in the day, our friend Claudia told us that there is a special area in the Bois de Vincennes where people walk around in the nude. The signage directing you to that area refers to "Naturists". It's a good thing I didn't come upon that sign, because I surely would have followed it, thinking of myself as one who enjoys nature.