Think you can’t go for a hike in a big city? Think again. And I’m not just talking about all the walking and stair-climbing you do in an ordinary day living in Paris. I’m talking an honest-to-goodness trail.
Bois de Boulogne is a large park on the western edge of the city in the 16th arrondissment, another park commissioned by Napoleon III as part of Baron Haussman’s redesign of Paris.
John and I spent the morning there, enjoying a beautiful, sunny Mother’s Day in Paris. I tried hard not to miss my children as we walked through the park which was filled with moms and kids of all sorts.
Bois de Boulogne has a long, colorful history. For centuries, French kings hunted in its forests. The first free manned flight (a balloon) was launched here by the Montgolfier Brothers from the Chateau de la Muette on November 21, 1783. In 1814, 40,000 British and Russian soldiers, fresh from defeating Napoleon Bonaparte, camped here, destroying the forest in the process.
Today, Parisians flock to the park to run, picnic, boat, watch horse racing, go to an amusement park…or hike (okay, stroll) on trails that crisscross the park. Prostitutes have also been known to line the park at night, servicing customers in cars adorned with red scarves. I did say it was a colorful history.
This morning, John and I went for a boat ride. Well, at least I went for a ride — powered by Longino Longarm Motors.
There were some big koi in the shallow lake. See the white blob? That’s a fish!
When the park was being built in the mid-1800s, a real Swiss chalet, built out of wood in Switzerland and transported to Paris, was reassembled on an island in the lake and became a restaurant.
It’s definitely a popular place. A small pontoon was constantly ferrying a boatload of people across the lake to the restaurant while others patiently waited in line.
John and I passed on the chalet and hiked back to the metro to go to one of my favorite cafes, Le Boul Mich, near the Odéon metro stop in the 6th arrondissment. My Mother’s Day treat. They have a salade nicoise that is out-of-this-world — not to mention one heck of a banana split. The latter is comfort food when missing children.
Unfortunately, the cafe was closed today. But no worries. Not only can you hike in Paris, you can also always find a meal that’s better than the last.