history · nature · Paris · tourist

Animal Antics

Moving on to more tourist-y things, I have to mention the Jardin des Plantes. Aptly named the ‘Plant Garden’ (sounds so much better in French, doesn’t it?), there are indeed lots of plants. Situated near the Sorbonne 3, I used to love to come here on my lunch break and soak up a few rays when it was sunny (& avoid the occasional stampede of runners!).

Having mentioned stampedes, and as the title of this post suggests, it’s not all plants and sport. Being one of the smaller gardens and maybe not quite as impressive as the famous Tuileries or Buttes-Chaumont (check out my previous post here if you fancy nature on a bigger scale!), its charm is in what surrounds it: animals, both present and past.

For all you zoo-loving people out there (whom I can strongly relate to!), this is one of the best bits. Being in a huge city which doesn’t advertise a zoo the scale of the London ZSL, one would presume that it wouldn’t exist. Rightly so. But you are, in fact, mistaken. Nestled away on one side of the Jardin des Plantes, the mini zoo is not as impressive as those of ZSL, but still nevertheless has a decent range of animals. My personal favourite (discounting the huge field of guinea pigs, which are an extra treat for those beginning to tire of pet-free accommodation) has to be the red pandas, with a clever enclosure which allows you to stand at the level of the top of the tree, enabling full view of the panda, instead of catching a glimpse of a red fleck in the leaves as is usually the case. This said, the friendly orangutans are worth a visit too. My Dad prefers the rocky mountain goats, probably because it reminds him of our extremely hairy Goldendoodle back at home…

Now for animals ‘past’, which sounds a bit less cheery than the zoo. However, it is extremely interesting, and for me this is something which marks a clear distinction between England and France: the National History Museum.

In London, you’re faced with a huge building, full of well-organised exhibits, a reasonable distance away from each other thus allowing people to meander and observe one at a time. In Paris, it’s the opposite. Think a freeze-frame of a stampede of skeletons coming at you, with a blue whale defying gravity in the sky for good measure. That’s why it’s so great.

Set across numerous floors, you can see multiple skeletons of all animals, including dinosaurs with the much-loved viewing platform on the top floor so you can really take everything in. The cabinets following the outline of the walls contain bottled organs from all sorts of animals; no-nonsense, no filter (and not for the faint-hearted…). Being so close together, you really get a scale for all the animals, and the fatigue which sometimes comes from traipsing around a huge museum for too long is avoided. Win-win situation.

Yet that’s not all the jardin has to offer: there are also greenhouses which you can take a walk through, and, not having done so yet, this is definitely something for when I return in August. So no matter what you fancy or what you’re in Paris for, this petit jardin is definitely worth a bit of your time.

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The Stampede
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