A Paris Walking Guide: 20 Charming Strolls through the Streets, Courtyards and Gardens of Paris
Sounds like an inviting title doesn’t it? That’s exactly what I thought right before buying this book and making it a mission to do all 20 strolls, one for each arrondissement, before leaving Paris.
So far it’s not going as quickly as planned, but I do have some time.
One weekend, David and I took our red Vespa up to the Parc Monceau neighbourhood to explore an area we rarely venture to. As our first self-guided tour from the book, we were eager to read and absorb all the information, but explanations are quite detailed and lengthy. We soon found ourselves skimming the pages and looking up and around at the points of interest and addresses listed, while just glancing at the history of who lived and died behind the walls.
The charming stroll started in Parc Monceau through the ornate gold gilded gates. The area used to be part of a private estate belonging to the Duke of Chartres in the late 1700s. The estate grounds featured all kinds of lavish ornaments and foreign influences some of which still stand today like the naumachia, the pyramid and fragments of the temple to Mars. The Duke kept adding to the grounds until he died à la French Revolution-style
After it became national property, large events and festivals were held there and was the site for the first parachute jump in history by Jacque Garnerin in 1797. So interesting!
From then after a few decades in a dilapidated state, shifting between private and public ownership and re-partitions due to city expansions and inheritances, about 20 hectares remained city property and developed into the park we see today.
Landscaped to look natural, like an English garden, it’s easy to stroll and get lost in the winding paths, passing the bridge, the man-made grotto, exotic flowers and the beautiful ornate dome of the observatory. It’s a popular park for families in the neighbourhood and far enough off the tourist path that you don’t get tour groups or hoards of visitors.
It’s a well-known spot for jogging, even Sarkozy frequents the paths.
The next part of the stroll led us to Rue de Monceau to study and admire the architectural features and learn the history of some notable addresses. The first thing you notice when walking the streets around the park is how wealthy the people who used to live here were. Houses (or rather mansions and estates) covered in ornate facades tower above us with incredible large doors perhaps hiding even more opulence behind them.
From Avenue Ruysdael to Avenue Van-Dyck, then Rue Alfred-de-Vigny and Rue de Courcelles, more beautiful facades, architectural elements and hidden courtyards. Exploring Paris typically involves entering a courtyard to reveal more than you imagined. At 8 Rue Alfred-de-Vigny, an exterior Gothic entrance leads you to a Franco-Flemish Renaissance courtyard with half-timbered outbuildings. Today, this is the Conservatoire International de Musique de Paris.
Just one reason why you have to explore further and deeper to see things you can’t see from the street.
Then before finishing off along Avenue Velasquez, we pass the corner at Rue Rembrant, number 48, to admire the pagoda-style architecture of the five-story red ochre building. It stands in stark, colourful contrast to its neighbours. We continued along, peaking through gates to get glimpses of the lives of the Parisian elite.
It wasn’t on the self guided walking tour but we couldn’t help but stop and peek into the Hotel du Collectionneur. The Art Deco elements with Ancient Egyptian flare pulled me in. And once inside, you could feel the luxury and style oozing from this place. It has a beautiful lobby but I only managed to snap some pictures of the Grand Staircase leading to the conference and meeting rooms below. What a treasure!
Whenever you see the sun reflected in the window of a building it is an angel
And with that, some 2 hours later, content with what we learned and saw, we returned home. I’m looking forward to exploring other neighbourhoods and hope you will follow along with my new blog series: See My Paris.
Just a gal who left Canada and her career behind to discover the world, develop herself and find her passion.