Tuesday, May 21

Travel Tuesday: Parisian Picnics

While travelling in France during the Summer Mr.P and I indulge in one of the favorite past time of many Parisians: Le Pique-nique! Picnic season is in full swing in Paris and the possibilities are endless, from benches and bridges, to parks and promenades. When the weather is warm, you’ll notice everyone from schoolchildren to businessmen grabbing a sandwich and a spot on the nearest bench to mellow out for a bit. Join in by gathering an assortment of delicious things to sample and wile away a Summer afternoon picnicking with the French. Here are a few places to enjoy the perfect Parisian Picnic…

As hard as it may seem to believe this little patch of green is right smack-dab in the middle of Paris and it's definitely worth a stroll. The Parc des Buttes-Chaumont sets high up in Belleville and often missed by weekenders keen not to stray too far from the tourist loop, this 19th arrondissement gem is one of the city's most unknown magical spots. 
When the city's boundaries were expanded in 1860, Belleville, once a village that provided Paris with fruit, wine and weekend escapes, was absorbed and the Buttes-Chaumont was created on the site of a former limestone quarry. The park, with its meandering paths, waterfalls and towering cliffs was opened as part of the celebrations for the Universal Exhibition in 1867. If  you can't make it to the Parc  des Buttes Chaumont for a picnic head to Rosa Bonheur. Set in the park, this mysterious tavern, heritage listed, takes its name from a famous painter of the nineteenth century. While it has retained its traditional appearance, this wonderfully jolly restaurant becomes one of the epicenters of the Parisian hip crowd at night. LOCATION: 1 rue Botzaris M Buttes Chaumont; metro line 7a

The institution of the picnic dates back to medieval Europe, when outdoor feasts were served before hunting, so what better place to have a picnic than where it all began? The medieval-inspired gardens beside the Musée National du Moyen Age, right in the heart of the Latin quarter, offer a tranquil haven from the bustling Boulevard Saint Germain. Split into three sections, the names of the gardens sound like something straight out of King Arthur. Past the ‘carpet of a thousand flowers’ and through the ‘sunken lane’ you come to a courtyard headed by a silver reed fountain.
Within lie a quartet of square gardens with period-inspired themes: a medicinal garden, a celestial garden, a vegetable patch and a garden of love. When it comes time to unpack your basket, head beyond the courtyard to the shady glades of the ‘unicorn forest.’ Hidden behind a woven wicker fence, medieval plants like hazel, elder, holly and medlar reign supreme here. Through the ‘forest’ you can even glimpse the ruins of the only remaining Roman baths in Paris. LOCATION:Latin Quarter, the 5th arrondissement; at the corner of St. Germain Boulevard and Boulevard St. Michel; Metro: Cluny la Sorbonne; bus line 10.

Round up your crew and head to one of Paris’ most idyllic public spaces.
While most of the grass is off limits, ah, the French, there is a wide swath on the south side where you can relax without getting covered in limestone dust. Great spot for people watching. The French ride horses here, run and walk on the park’s winding trails and children sail boats in the central pond. LOCATION: Boulevard Saint-Michel, rue de Vaugirard, rue Guynemer, rue Auguste Comte, rue de Médicis; 5th and 6th arrondissements; Metro: Odeon; Bus Lines 4 and 10. Enter on rue Auguste Comte for easiest access to this spot.

Romantics and first-time visitors would do well to set up on the vast Champs de Mars at the base of the Eiffel Tower.
This park extends from the École militaire to the Eiffel Tower and is accessible day and night. There’s plenty of grass to spread out on and it offers a wonderful view of the capital’s most famous monument. If you picnic at sunset you can watch the tower sparkle with lights, and romantic Paris just doesn't get any better than this.  LOCATION: Avenue Gustave Eiffel, Avenue Charles Floquet, Avenue de la Motte-Picquet, Avenue Emile Deschanel, Avenue Elisée Reclus; 7th arrondissement; Metro: Ecole Militaire; Bus Line: 8.

As the city’s highest park, this off-the-beaten path refuge has one of Paris’ most breathtaking views. 
Filled with forest boughs, grassy patches and wildflowers, it's the type of park you don't see in the center of Paris, untamed, modern and breathtaking. The trek to the 20th arrondissement is well worth it, especially if you come in the evening to watch the sun sink behind the Eiffel Tower. LOCATION: rue des Couronnes, rue Piat, rue Julien-Lacroix, rue Jouye-Rouve, 20th arrondissement. Metro: Pyrénées, Bus Line 11.

With its statues, bushes, and trees, the garden has become a favorite meeting place where Parisians and visitors alike can relax right in the heart of the capital. 
Just steps from the Louvre, this lovely manicured park is a wonderful place to eat a bite, catch your breath and bask in the beauty of this very Parisian flower garden. The backdrop of great architecture and modern art is a delightful added bonus. LOCATION: Métro: Palais Royal – Musée du Louvre; open 7:00a-11:00p June-July-August; until 8:30p other months. 
Of course, you don’t need to plan a “destination picnic” to enjoy the outdoors in Paris. The city’s little squares, hidden gardens, sprawling staircases and winding riverbanks provide perfect places to spontaneously settle in for an unplanned afternoon of relaxation. And isn’t that what a Parisian Summer afternoon should be? Eating, musing, lounging, making sense, not making sense, and practicing the ever-important art of doing nothing. 

If you find yourself in Paris this Summer, SLOW DOWN! Grab a basket; fill it with all things French, find your own patch of green and ENJOY Paris' backyard...

...you'll be glad ya did!


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