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More snapshots of Paris

overcast 35 °F

My French expat friend Evelyn gave me an extensive list of must-do's in Paris and this entry is largely in honor of her success in laying out some great recommendations.

First, I went down to the Jardin des Plantes in Paris.

But before I do that maybe a word about getting around in Paris. The short answer is that there are two main ways to get around - the Metro and, for spots a bit out of town (like my apartment which was in Saint Denis, a northerly suburb), the suburban rail system, the RER. You can buy a combined pass for both systems for unlimited travel for 1 or more days at most train station ticket offices, which worked out extremely well for me; it's called a Paris Visite. Let me also say that while Mr. Google is an amazing travel companion and has stood by me in every transit system around the world, he does have a blind spot in Paris; he doesn't know how to work with trips that combine both the RER and the Metro which was the case for most of my trips. Fortunately, there's an app for that - it's called "Visit Paris by Metro - RATP" on the play store (somewhat misleadingly as it includes the RER which is not part of the Metro). The RATP app readily routes you efficiently on both systems. To give you an idea, the RATP app got me to the Notre Dame in one go in about 30 minutes from my door, while Mr. Google wanted a 20 minute walk followed by a 30 minute Metro ride.

OK- back to the Jardin des Plantes. It is a garden - containing plants. It's big. It's pretty formal and it is quite nice, even in winter.


It has a variety of beds of different kinds of flowers, most of which, naturally, were not in bloom. It also has an extensive medicinal plant garden which is documented in great detail. It warmed the cockles of this chemist's heart to see molecular structures provided!


Here's a kind of interesting vertical panorama of the trees that line either side of the formal gardens.


and another picture of a bit of residual fall color.


Next stop is the building you can see at the end of the garden in the first picture - the Grande Galerie de l'Evolution. This was a bit of a disappointment, frankly. It is a gorgeous building in the classical 'dead zoo' style of early 20th century natural history museums that they have tried to modernize by opening up the exhibits and cutting back on the number of glass cases, but that isn't the problem.


It's more of a philsophical/educational issue. It is called a Gallery of Evolution but it is really a Gallery of diversity. Now that's fine, and the rich diversity of life is readily explained by the combination of deep time and the known mechanisms of evolution, but they nowhere bring up anything to do with fossil or molecular evidence, so it is kind of a one-legged table. I know this may be a quibble but as I try to follow the ongoing efforts to squelch good science in schools by proponents of creationism and its cousins like Intelligent Design, I really want to see strong arguments made every time we have the public's attention. I didn't think that this museum accomplished this goal, although I do understand that they were starting with a dead zoo and were doing their best within the context; I just think they should have tried harder to enrich the context as well.

Still, all was not lost. I got to see a stuffed dodo!


Well, to clear the dust of the dead zoo, I headed across the street to another of Evelyn's suggestions; the Grande Mosquée de Paris for mint tea and pastries. Very nice indeed and not something I would have otherwise spotted.


Another of Evelyn's suggestions was a visit to the Latin Quarter for some culture. I headed out there in the evening and first browsed a bit in Shakespeare and Company, a very large and interesting (primarily) English language bookstore. Sadly, not a lot of space left in the old suitcase at this point, but it was fun. Then on to the Caveau de la Huchette for a real musical treat. This is a jazz institution in Paris where you grab a beer at the bar and then descend down a narrow staircase into the depths. It does indeed look like a cave; I was surpised there were not beer stalactites descending from the ceiling. There was a 3 piece boogie woogie band playing up a storm and the pianist was a guy who had clearly been doing this for many, many, many years.


And the crowd was definitely cutting a rug (or would have been if there had been a rug!).


It was a complete gas of an evening and a day.

However as I warned, I was not going to be entirely chronological in this entry so I want to briefly describe another musical event I attended; a Mozart Requiem in the Eglise Madeleine. Here is a picture of the beautiful altar where the concert was held, taken earlier in the afternoon.


The concert itself was quite good although not stellar - it clearly was not a regular ensemble of musicians and so some of the playing was a little bit ragged. Nonetheless, a musical experience like this in a place like this was truly special. There was also a distraction during the performance. One of the members of the chorus apparently fell ill during the performance. They moved them to stage left just behind a railing and for the rest of the concert there was an EMT team seen working. I don't know the outcome but I hope everything was all right.

I think I will have to paste together one more snapshot to complete the Paris experience. Stay tuned!

Posted by tdeits 12:24 Archived in France Tagged churches gardens food paris fall museum music mozart evolution boogie woogie

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