May 30, 2015

From Mosquée to Roman Arena passing by the zoo... only in Paris

We were to discover the secrets of the Left Bank with my favourite guide from Paris Walks. We started off at the Place Monges. Arriving early I had the chance to stroll around the local market and admire all the fresh produce as well as a quick café crème to keep me going.

We started off by admiring the Grande Mosquée de Paris founded in 1926 as a token of gratitude, after World War I, to the Muslim tirailleurs from France's colonial empire, of whom some 100,000 died fighting against Germany. Our guide Chris enlightened us that the mosque was built following the mudéjar style, and its minaret is 33 meters high.

We ladies actually got carried away by the charming courtyard café decorated with colourful ceramic tiles and a superb selection of delicious sweets which of course we had to taste.

While munching on our wonderful traditional honey pastries, we strolled through magnificent botanical gardens, the Jardin des Plantes. The garden was planted in 1635 by Guy de La Brosse, Louis XIII's physician, as a medicinal herb garden. It was originally known as the Jardin du Roi. In 1640 it opened to the public. In addition to the gardens there is also a small zoo, founded in 1795 by Bernardin de Saint-Pierre from animals of the royal menagerie at Versailles.

We heard all about it’s history - it is after all the second oldest civil zoo in the world - and about the real story of Zarafa the first giraffe in France. We admired the architecture of the old style glass hot houses newly restored to their original splendour until we got stuck in a storm of hail and had to find refuge next to the Kangaroos.

But nothing was to stop us, with our umbrellas in hand, we carried on to see the spectacular remains of the Roman arenas, once flooded for naval battles, and discovered in the 19th century by chance when Paris was being redeveloped. Well, looks like there are about to be flooded all over again.

La Grande Mosquée de Paris

Just in case...

Grande Galerie de l'évolution

Wishing I could be jogging through this park

Art Deco Mexican winter garden 

The Australian greenhouse designed by Rohault de Fleury.

Home of the bees

Bernardin de Saint-Pierre himself

Entering the enchanted garden

Rain, rain go away, come again another day!

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