Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Visit to the Jardin des Plantes & Other Pleasures

Fall continues to rapidly transform our world. Each day the colors change a bit more, the leaves begin to swirl in the breeze and the temperatures are unpredictable. Days become shorter and our rhythms shift.

This weekend we went to Paris to see the family. Sandwiched in between two days of very inclement weather, we had a glorious Sunny Sunday. Rick and I decided to take Quinn on an adventure to the Jardin des Plantes, the largest botanical garden in France. Originally called the Jardin du Roi, it was built for the royal family in the early 17th century, made for the cultivation of medicinal plant specimens. It is located on the left bank, right on the river, a few steps from the Gare d'Austerlitz, which is a straight metro ride from Emily's place. When built it was in the countryside, but now, of course, it is right in the middle of the city.

Besides the beautiful garden, which Quinn was much less interested in than we were, there are several museums. The buildings which house them are impressively grand and ancient. Quinn and I decided that they were built for giants. The Comparative Anatomy and Palaeontology Museum is located at the entrance where we came in.

When entering the first room. one is confronted with numerous skeletons as far as the eye can see. Quinn was quite competent in identifying what animal's bones he was looking at.

My favorites were the enormous whale skeletons.

The snake skeletons were also quite impressive.

On the upper level were dinosaur bones, which certainly tickled Quinn's fancy. He's learned a lot about dinos, as all young boys seem to do, and was able to recognize many of them.

The building is entirely open, allowing for wonderful views from above. We all found the place extremely interesting, just as good as the Museum of Natural History in Central Park. This was, at least, the consensus of Quinn and Rick who both hold very fond memories of that place. I've never been there.

After our museum visit we walked the full length of the park itself. It is such a delightful place to sit, especially on a day like that. There is a central core with plants labeled and arranged on grass borders, flanked on both sides by long alleys of trees. The benches along the way were mostly occupied.

The garden itself is very well maintained. We were surprised by how much is still in glorious bloom.

The fragrance of herbs filled the air. The bees busied themselves in gathering their last harvests.

Sun on colorful trees filled me with joy. I feel that poignant sense of impermanence each fall, which makes these sunlit days seem especially precious.

The Jardin des Plantes is a place one could certainly spend many days, and never see everything there is to see. We tipped our hats to the huge greenhouses as we went by. Hopefully someday we will be able to explore the exotic plants growing inside. But probably not with a three year old in tow.

When we reached the far end of the garden, we exited. I had it in mind to get to The Paris Mosque for lunch, one of my all time favorite places to take a meal. It happens to be right across the street.

We have eaten here many times before, but Quinn never had. I love the rich colors and ornate decoration.

Quinn was impressed with the mosaic designs and he especially enjoyed the little chickadees which flew in and out of the dining room.

Even the bathroom here is a visual feast.

Quinn was charmed to have his own little bench to sit on and for a table, a large golden tray.

Lunch itself was couscous and lamb kabobs. This is not an expensive place to eat, but the food is very good.

I love the clash of patten and color, It is a rich meal for the stomach and the eyes.

The pastry selection is quite fantastic. Quinn enjoyed choosing some treats for after lunch which we had packed up and took back to the park to eat. There was still the royal zoo to visit!

One of the favored activities in the zoo was actually sitting in the mouth of a stone hippopotamus.

The king's menagerie was transferred to the Jardin des Plantes not long after its construction. It is a very beautiful zoo with many attractive buildings.

The vivarium, filled with reptiles of every description was fascinating. Turtles, frogs, huge exotic lizards and a completely motionless alligator all caught Quinn's attention. He didn't like the snakes so much.

We had to drag Quinn away from the flamingos. I believe he could have sat and watched them all afternoon. Jos told us that these birds only stay bright orange if they are fed a diet of shrimp. If fed on other fish, they lose their color within a week and turn gray.


This week we also had the pleasure of welcoming one of my past students to the Maison Conti. We hadn't seen one another since she was in fourth grade. Gabriella is now a junior at Wellesley where she studies psychology. She is taking a semester in Italy to improve her Italian language skills.

She only stayed with us for one night, but we had some relatively nice weather in which to show her around our village. It is always such fun for us to take the tour with old friends who have never been here before. It allows us to see our world with fresh eyes.

The countryside here is so pleasant, gentle and at this time of year, particularly charming. Gabriella is studying in Bologna, which is a very big city. She hasn't had the chance to explore the Italian countryside yet, so I think she appreciated a brief change in tempo, and a home cooked meal.


I have begun to harvest my colorful carrots which I bought from Cubits. They're pretty and delicious!


  1. Adventure in paris with a kid like Quinn is obviously very pleasant ! We had the same type of visit with some of our grand children and their enthousiasm was fantastic. These very old institutions as Jardin des Plantes and Museum are memories for ever in a child brain, especially palaeontology one and its amazing how they like skeletons, bones and how they know many of the animals.
    Then i wonder how Quinn will mix dinosaurus and arabic art in future !
    Love the picture with the pink flamingos

  2. What a fun, beautiful day with little Quinn. I never knew that little tidbit about the flamingos and their shrimp diet. Lovely post as always. Wanted to invite you to share this post at my Make it Pretty Monday party at The Dedicated House which goes live @8am CST on Monday. http://thededicatedhouse.blogspot.com Hope to see you at the bash! Toodles, Kathryn @TheDedicatedHouse

  3. SO much fun to get to see Quinn! He is growing up so fast.. I hope I get to see him in person before too long! He looks like a great fellow to take on an adventure!

  4. As you and others observe, that young fellow is a treat to take places.
    Children need outings like this more than stay-home DVDs.
    And I LOVE the Paris Mosque.What a great place!