In the "Park it in Paris" series, I write about the city's parks - some of the best spots to relax, people-watch, and mingle with the locals.
The fact that Paris is divided by a river has set the stage for the age-old debate of Left Bank versus Right Bank. At least we can say that the city's beginnings took place on the neutral ground of Île de la Cité, and it remains the heart of Paris. (If you stand in the square facing Notre Dame Cathedral, in Place du Parvis de Notre-Dame, look for the star plaque on the ground. All route distances from Paris are measured from that marker.) I like to imagine that when the city was ready to expand off the island, it was the time when the two camps were formed.
I will admit that I am a Right Bank girl all the way. I live on that side and spend most of my time there. If I didn't have friends who live on the Left Bank, it would be easy for me to go weeks with crossing over a bridge.
Yet here we are in August. The exodus of Parisians and flood of incoming tourists have newly inspired me to be intentional to seek out new places in the city. And that mission can be accomplished for me by crossing the Seine.
Literally just over the river, on the other side of Pont d'Austerlitz, lies the green expanse that is the Jardin des Plantes.
Before my eyes, the garden burst with colors, flowers in every size, shape, and shade. How could I have missed this 24-hectares of botanical gardens in the 2+ years of living in Paris?
Walking around, I found picnic tables set up in an alcove and many benches. For the serious plant lovers, there is a huge greenhouse (actually, a series of four greenhouses) known as Les Grandes Serres that is open to the public for an entry fee. For those who prefer fauna over flora, there is even a small zoo on the premises. (Sorry, the links are in French from the official site.)
Maybe this is a sign I'm getting older. I was amused just by walking through the grounds and seeing all the gorgeous and interesting plants.
I could leave the visit on a high note with all these pretty flower pictures. But I can't omit the finding I had at the end of my visit. One glance and I had spotted a peaceful angel statue among the roses. A few steps closer and I realized that instead, I was looking at perhaps the creepiest statue in all of Paris:
The Jardin des Plantes was a peaceful escape from the city, and a reminder that the Left Bank has quite a lot going for it. In fact, I might just make it over to that side more often since there is clearly lots more to explore (especially judging from the fact that I completely overlooked such a large garden for so long!).
Access: 57 rue Cuvier, 2 rue Buffon, 36 rue Geoffroy-Saint-Hilaire, place Valhubert 75005 Paris, France
Open daily; Summer hours 7:30am-8:00pm, Winter hours 8:00am-5:30pm
The gardens are free of charge
Looking for more to do in the area?
- Visit the Institute Arabe du Monde to see an exhibit or go up to the terrace for a free view of Paris.
- Walk to the Grande Mosquée de Paris for a look inside and/or get a cup of mint tea.
- Check out the Jardin Tino-Rossi sculpture garden next door.
- Don't forget about the National Museum of Natural History on the premises!
Linking up with #AllAboutFrance!