On this sunny Sunday in October we visited the Bois de Boulogne, a large (over 2,000 acres) park in the 16th arrondissement. It is about a twenty-minute walk from where we are staying on Rue Lauriston. The park has lakes and horse racing tracks, greenhouses and a zoo (ugh, don't like zoos), a campground and a restaurant on an island. It is the site of the French Open tennis tournament. And in the evening the park is said to have a thriving sex trade.
The grounds of the park have quite the storied history, dating all the way back to Dagobert I, a king from the 600s. It's seen use as a hunting grounds for royalty, a sanctuary for robbers, and a battleground in the Hundred Years War. More recently it was the site of the first manned flight, made by the Montgolfier brothers in a hot air balloon. It has also served as a camp for 40,000 foreign soldiers following the defeat of Napoleon. The park's history reflects the history of France.
When we visited the park it had no trophy animals, no soldiers, and no balloons. Didn't see any royalty either. Instead it was filled with families, walkers, bicyclists, people talking on the phone, and runners, oh so many runners, which conflicts with my image of the French sitting in a cafe smoking Gitanes.