Monday, August 2, 2010

Bois de Bologne

This Sunday, we headed to the West edge of Paris to explore the Bois de Bologne, a forest that once inspired many of France's impressionist painters and now gives Parisians a place to bring their children/bikes/dogs/significant others to explore.
We wandered through woods, across bridges and small streams to a grassy island. Every now and again we'd happen across surprises: a campsite, a playground, a horse track and polo field, a tennis club...
...or some mushrooms...
...or some berries. It seemed as if the forest had been intentionally planted with edible fruits (plums, elderberries, etc). We picked some just-starting-to-ripen blackberries to eat as we walked. During the picking process I was rudely introduced to stinging nettles--ouch!
On the opposite edge of the woods we hit Neuilly, the posh suburb of Paris where Nicolas Sarkozy grew up.
Tom was our self-appointed navigator. I still maintain that I have a better sense of direction, though.
Eventually, thanks to either his navigation skills or plain luck, we managed to find the woods' central ponds.

We rented out a row boat. Paddling was much less work than I expected.
Contrary to appearances, Tom actually did most of the work.
It was fun to see who else was out on the water: Grandparents with their grandchildren, old and young couples, tourists chattering in various languages and snapping loads of pictures, fathers in suits rowing their entire family, all adorned in the Sunday best, etc. There was also a little riverboat (that red thing in the background) to shuttle people who weren't cool enough to get a row boat back and forth to the central island (and its cafés and restaurants).
The pond was pretty shallow, but there was a lot of fish and plant life in it, not to mention whole flocks of ducks and the world's largest population of water striders.
When we tired of rowing, we pulled our boat up on the grassy shore of the deserted side and sat in the shadow of this sculpture for a fruit picnic.

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