Articles tagués French Revolution

Hidden Treasures of Eastern Paris: Parks

Eastern Paris is not famous for its parks. It’s better known for being raucous, colourful, edgy, artsy and multicultural. Despite relishing in its ‘urbanity’ the east cultivates too its pockets of nature. These are a few of these finds.

Jardin Naturel – 170 rue de la réunion

I should probably mention first that I am not a big fan of public gardens, especially the usual French fare where one isn’t allowed to walk in the grass. I hate the artifice of a tamed nature, so when I heard about the Jardin Naturel it seemed pretty ideal and for the most part, it was.

The Jardin Naturel is a small park that is wilfully ‘abandoned’ by its keepers, vegetation is allowed to develop however it wants. Benches are tucked away in walls of greenery, a nymph is expected to rise from its pond at any moment, even the clusters of midgets lend something magical to the scenery. Consequently, it achieves what many parks aim for but fail, it’s a pocket of serenity.

It is impressive considering that it is tucked against the touristy Père Lachaise and off a boisterous 20th street.

Whilst the place isn’t ‘kept’ as such, there are still boards dotted around the garden providing the stroller with information on the now unusual species of plants (and birds) that used to be common in Paris.

Père Lachaise is straight ahead, but the Jardin is on the right

Square de la Roquette 147 Rue de la Roquette

I visited this park on May 8th which seemed appropriate as a bank holiday celebrating Germany’s capitulation in WW2. The square only recently became a park, its past life includes being a convent during the 1789 Revolution and a youth and women’s prison until 1973. A guillotine used to be erected outside its walls, with 200 executions performed between 1851 and 1899. However, it is especially famous for holding 4000 women of the resistance during the war. The prison was demolished in 1974 and replaced by a park but the imposing entrance was kept. Today it bears a small commemorative plaque, (it was decorated with flowers for the occasion) next to a pigeonry.

The park itself is surprisingly beautiful, with a fountain, clusters of benches and a large playground. It also apparently hosts a theatre underneath it. It’s not spectacular by any means, but it is quietly charming.

Parc des Buttes Chaumont – Métro Buttes Chaumont, Laumière or Botzaris

The largest and most famous parc of the three and yet, still rather unknown to non-Parisians. It is man-made and as the name indicates, far from flat. Le Parc des Buttes Chaumont was constructed for four years and opened for the Universal Exhibition of 1867.

This is a place you have to discover for yourself, from the secret entrance of the Petite Ceinture (a disused railway line) to the grotto with its waterfall. My favourite feature, however, is the Belvedere of Sybil:

Created during the XIXth century at the height of the esoteric fad, rumour has it that the now closed quarry holds a mysterious and magical room and that mystical artefacts are buried in the grounds of the park.


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Magic Lantern @ the cinémathèque

Lanterne Magique et Film Peint: 400 ans de cinéma

Magic Lantern circa 1889

This is a quick plug for an unusual exhibition running only until 28th March. Long before the Frères Lumières and George Méliès came on the scene, magic lanterns, those wonderful optical machines, were popular sources of entertainment. This exhibition traces its various uses: as an educative tool, particularly in the 19th Century with the introduction of photography; as a storytelling device; as a pornographic show; as a religious instrument to teach catechism or scare parishioners with its visions of hell; the exhibition even includes a contemporary installation by artist Anthony McCall.

This is a unique exhibition that showcases the entrancing qualities of the machines. It attempts to rectify the slight they have suffered since the arrival of Cinema. On the other hand it also pays homage to the directors influenced by it, including Truffaut, Bergman and Fellini. Whilst many of the lanterns are presented in action with glistening, colourful, and sometimes animated images, they are also accompanied by works in other mediums such as contemporary engravings and paintings that capture the lanterns in action.

The exhibition is laid out thematically which means that the material presented can encompass 18th century material alongside later and/or earlier work from all over Europe. A foolish steward told us we were heading the wrong way as we entered the exhibition and so made us follow it in the reverse direction which was slightly confusing. Thankfully, the thematic, rather than chronological set up, meant we weren’t entirely lost.

I was particularly interested in the exhibition as part of my PhD involves cataloguing prints from Waddesdon Manor dating from the French Revolution. This is one of them (it did not feature in the exhibition, though others from the époque did). Enjoy!

A Sans-Culotte showing King George III via a Magic Lantern the wonders of the French Revolution


51 Rue de Bercy
75012 Paris
01 71 19 33 33

P.S. There is quite a formidable collection, available online for anyone unable to make the exhibition in time, called the collection François Binetruy. It is the result of fourty years of research.

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