Thursday, July 20, 2006

Bois de Vincennes

I woke up this morning with a very sore knee. The awkward angle at which I kept my leg, ankle, and foot yesterday while driving did not agree and I could barely extend my leg today. I spent close to 30 minutes trying to walk it out, but as soon as I deemed it road worthy I headed out to the Twingo and decided to go…somewhere. Sure it’s Sunday in France, but that doesn’t mean the open road is closed. In truth, I would’ve been content just to drive all day, but I didn’t want to pay for the gas and tolls. I drove to the Bois de Vincennes. Just on the other side of the city limits, Vincennes is a big wooded park and home to the City’s zoo and botanical gardens. It is also surrounded by some very beautiful, never-in-my-life-will-I-be-able-to-afford-to-live-here homes. I took the Pte de Charenton exit and tried my best to follow signs to the zoo. Surely, if it wasn’t open, I could park the car and enjoy the park quand meme. The problem was that I couldn’t find the zoo. I found myself driving around the park not really sure where I was going, however, it was such a lovely day, I really didn’t care. The French were out in full force: joggers, cyclists, families picnicking, footballers, and kids playing with squirt guns. The two-lane park roads were full of cars looking for parking spots and vintage auto owners out for a Sunday drive. I just followed the flow of traffic; if it was easier to turn, I turned. If it was easier to go straight…
I found myself turning back towards the direction of Paris when I entered a large roundabout completely full of parked cars. ? I wasn’t really sure where to go or what to do when the people behind me started to honk their horns. And then I looked up: Le Chateau de Vincennes. Impressionant, wouldn’t you say? I navigated through the “parking lot” and headed back to the Parc Floral to leave the car.
I miss driving, and I miss driving a little car even more. My very first car was a 1989 Hyundai Excel (a two-door hatchback). I loved it. Fast and conveniently compact. I could whiz in and out of traffic, parking, etc. Before I left home, I was driving a boat that has sustained its fair share of damage (I am a good driver but when it comes to the big cars, I can’t park for shit). When I return home, my father is giving me his 2001 Lincoln towncar. A whale. A luxury whale to be sure, but a whale. Gas alone will probably bankrupt me every month, but due to family politics, selling it is not an option.
But, I digress…
I decided against taking the guided tour of the castle and church (the famous donjon—the tallest medieval donjon in existence—is, due to renovation, not open to the public), and walked around the grounds taking photos and soaking up the sun. It’s a great little castle complete with chapel, his and hers wings, giant donjon, and wall built to withstand dragons and knights of the roundtable.
Crossing to the other side of the castle grounds, I stopped to grab a sandwich and éclair, and picnic in the shade. Picnics on park benches will be missed. In the states, eating is done in your home or certain designated places: a restaurant, picnic area. You can’t just go into the mall, roll a burrito and start munching away.* In France—throughout Europe, cities are planned in such way that open-air, communal spaces are used for everything from, yes, eating to exercise, walking the dog to (in Paris) making out/grinding against a loved one. It’s not rare to find a young, beautiful American tourist sitting on a bench next to a busy commercial street enjoying her lunch. And said young, beautiful American tourist has no reason to feel at all out of place as many locals are doing the same.

Next up: le Parc floral. I really just walked around the park for a couple of hours. It’s quite large, and offers several amenities including a children’s play area, concert pavilion, several green house, restaurants, and relatively clean bathrooms. As it was Sunday afternoon, the park was full of families picnicking and enjoying the sun. The were everywhere. I felt a bit like John Candy in Summer Rental stepping over and on people as he made his way across the beach to his family. But it was fun to see a couple thousand people all in good spirits, all relaxed away from the city. Also, if you do have children, and you plan on coming to Paris, you must visit le Parc Floral for this:
This mammoth is only one of many pretty extraordinary “toys” to enjoy. They have bumper boats, mini golf, an outdoor discovery science park, etc. I was tempted to start climbing myself.
Admission to the park cost me 1€50 (student) and is open everyday.
Driving my little Twingo back to the city, I sighed and accepted the fact that I still have another month before I can drive whenever I want, and that I only have one month here in Paris.

*10 pts. for that one: film and name of character—not actor who played him


Blogger Serena said...

I can't help of thinking about Gilligan's Island whenever I look at the photo with the purple flowers and the palm trees...

12:39 PM  
Blogger European said...

We had one of those climby things where I grew up. Good times!

5:46 PM  

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