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The city of lights and a bit of dark history

parc buttes chaumontIf you’re in North America,  it’s probably starting to get a little chilly out and I can almost bet you’ve been thinking about where you’ll go next. I know the feeling – we’ve been doing lots of it ourselves, though I had to remind Jérémie that Lapland only gets 2.5 hours of sun a day in winter so… maybe we could find a better time to go and that doesn’t even touch on the fact that we’re in full reno mode over here. Who’s got time for vacations!? We need a staycation!

Well I can’t say my recent jaunts to Paris have been about a staycation, but I’ve been wandering and enjoying everything it has to offer lately as much as I can. While I may have been living in France on and off since 2012, you might be surprised at how much I still have yet to explore. Of course, I’ve seen A LOT of this country, and I’m really grateful for it, but there is just so much that I’ve yet to see. 

Last week I visited Buttes Chaumont. I’ve only had it on my list for a few years now… You see, this park is a bit awkwardly situated (or so I think anyways) and so getting there by metro usually means a transfer or two which I just didn’t always feel like doing. Lazy? You betcha! Let’s be honest though, with so many things to see, I had other places I could more easily visit first. Anyways, you’re probably wondering why this place was important, or at least I hope you are.

The park of Buttes Chaumont is a little to the north east. If you’ve got a trip to see Jim Morrison or Edith Piaf at Père Lachaise on your list then you’re in the right area to finish off with the park . I was reading a biography of Paris some time ago and I stumbled upon a piece of history that was rather gruesome. It’s not really the kind of thing I enjoy reading, but it certainly had my attention. Back in the 13th to 18th century, before even being within city limits, this site (though now they say “next to it” but maybe that’s creative re-marketing… but who can know?)  was believed to be where criminals were put on display nice up high after death or torture as a symbol both poignant and odorous, as they were apparently they were left for some time to…. decay… to remind the people to keep order.  Of course we all know France has a bit of a story in world history, but this was one tidbit I’d never heard about. It was also a major quarry which helped supply the massive building of Paris and in keeping with the stinky history also had a part which was a refuse dump. Just lovely right?  So let’s just say, this place wasn’t exactly known as an attractive place to go, that is, until Baron Haussmann decided in the mid 1800’s to convert it into the beautiful and attractive park it is today. He’s also responsible for the major renovations of the city creating the major boulevards and squares, adding arrondissements and the very uniform Haussmann styled apartments Paris is famous for, all in just 17 years! 

So this interesting history had me curious what it could look like now. Well I have to say, it’s probably one of the most comfortable parks in the city. Parisians aren’t usually so fond of you sitting or walking on the lawn but if you’ve got a nice day you’re going to find people truly enjoying this public space and you are more than welcome to put out a blanket and re-live a piece of art with “a luncheon on the grass.” (but please – be clothed)  The site is full of joggers, strollers, and folks talking about philosophy everywhere. It’s so relaxed and perfectly green and very hilly, which is a rare city treat! We took the opportunity to have a casual picnic lunch thanks to the little tapas restaurant, Rosa Bonheur, that is housed in the park (they also have events in the evenings from time to time that are known for being pretty fun.) Don’t be surprised that it’s not a lavish looking place, the tapas is wonderful! Just order a couple things, a bottle of wine and they’ll supply the bread!

In fact do the picnic first and then go walk it off. The most famous spot to visit is the temple of sibylle, modelled after one in Italy. and it overlooks the park but you’ll also get a great view of Sacré Coeur on Montmartre. 

Hope you’ll love it as much as I did!

If you’ve got some ideas of places I should visit in the city or would like to share a memory of your own, please leave it in the comments below.parc buttes chaumontparc buttes chaumontparc buttes chaumontparc buttes chaumontparc buttes chaumontparc buttes chaumont

  • November 17, 2016 - 05:57

    Lesley - I went for a bike ride with my friend Anna on the weekend and she told me she was pretty sure she saw you when she was in Paris last month. I asked her where it was and she said Buttes Chaumont so I think she must have been right! Small world! (She remembered you from our wedding 🙂 )ReplyCancel

    • November 17, 2016 - 13:53

      Christina - Oh crazy! That’s so unexpected. It might have been… Did she say much? Was I alone or with Jeremie? Eating our picnic? Too bad she didn’t say hi – though I might not have known her…ReplyCancel

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