Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Paris Part Two – Parc Zoologique, Jardin des Plantes, and Notre-Dame

Parc Zoologique


In the outskirts of Paris is the Parc Zoologique. Situated next to the Bois de Vincennes, a green space covering 995 hectares which is worth making a trip to explore even without the zoo. First opened in 1934, the zoo underwent a major refurbishment in 2011 to bring its environments up to the standards demanded by modern regulations. The result is a beautifully landscaped zoo with enclosures that feel quite natural. A large artificial rock dominates the skyline and teases with glimpses of stairs inside, not open to the public. They house animals large and small and have an impressive greenhouse to simulate a tropical rainforest environment.

The next day started with a trip to Galeries Lafayette Haussmann, an impressive department store opened early in the twentieth century. If you enjoy shopping you can happily spend hours browsing their upmarket wares, but even if not, it’s worth visiting for the beautiful architecture and stunning views over Paris from the roof.

Views over Paris from the roof of Galeries Lafayette
After this we visited the Jardin des Plantes and found ourselves once again heading for a zoo. The menagerie is the second oldest in the world and parts of it do feel slightly run down. The enclosures are significantly smaller than those at the Parc Zoologique with a couple of animals showing signs of distress. Despite this they do house some big cats and the design of the enclosures allow for excellent views. Crowds were delighted to see baby leopards playing together.

The menagerie is located near the Seine and we took a pleasant stroll along its banks during the golden hour, many couples and friends enjoying the stunning surroundings with a bottle of wine. We arrived at Notre-Dame just before closing and with no queues. A service was in progress so we were unable to walk the full length of the building but we saw enough to be able to appreciate the majesty of the building. The crowds of tourists do make it hard to fully appreciate the intended peacefulness but that is to be expected of a trip to such an iconic building. Last time we visited we went up the towers and I would highly recommend this.
An evening stroll by the Seine

To round off the day we visited Shakespeare and Company, possibly the most famous English language bookshop in the city. The original, opened in 1919 by Sylvia Beach was frequented by the likes of Hemingway and Joyce. The current incarnation was opened in 1951 by George Whitman and continues the traditions of its namesake, welcoming authors and artists, and sometimes even housing them in exchange for work in the shop. Visiting today is a bibliophile’s dream with its many reading nooks, resident cat, and rows upon rows of books.

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