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Posts Tagged ‘Bois de Boulogne’

The théâtre de verdure du jardin Shakespeare is a delightful open air theatre in the Bois de Boulogne, to the west of Paris. Last month we saw Macbeth there in a dramatic performance by the Tower Theatre Company. It was my 8-year-old daughter’s first taste of Shakespeare and, after grappling with the arcane language for a while, she declared it enjoyable.

I very much liked the setting, with its different areas planted to represent various Shakespeare scenes – from a heath for Macbeth’s witches and the brook where Ophelia drowns to a woodland for a Midsummer Night’s Dream.

The stage itself is a splendid affair, with a mass of different entrances and exits, and all sorts of narrow paths and steps for the cast to gamble around. Underfoot is gravel, which apparently requires daily sword fight practice to avoid the characters loosing their footing and producing rather more “blood and death” than intended. Altogether it is a delightful enclosed space, worth a visit even if no performance is scheduled.

As a Brit in Paris, I think a post about Shakespeare in the Bois de Boulogne is as good a way as any to pause this blog for a while. We leave France in a couple of days and, after some time in the UK, will be setting off for our new adventure in India in early August. I hope very much to return in the autumn with stories of Mughal landscapes and colonial parks and ancient garden tombs…

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Bois de Boulogne - le lac inférior

Bois de Boulogne flower bedThe Bois de Boulogne, once an ancient oak forest, was for centuries a royal hunting ground. In the 1850s, it became the first of many public parks created by the Emperor Napoleon III. His team of engineers, designers and horticulturalists produced what they saw as an English-style landscape, with sinuous paths, rock features, clumps of trees, and moving water. Originally Napoleon had wanted an artificial river, inspired by the Serpentine that he had seen in London’s Hyde Park, but a miscalculation by his landscape architect meant that the planned river had to be converted into the two adjoining lakes that remain today as a central feature of the park.

Located just to the west of Paris, and a short bus or metro journey from the city centre, the lakes retain something of their mid-nineteenth century feel.

There are small island flower beds, planted with colourful annuals; a ferry which takes just a couple of minutes to transport people from the pelouse de la Muette across to a genuine Swiss chalet – now a restaurant – on one of the islands in the lake; and a fine iron bridge providing access between the two islands.

Bois de BoulogneThere is also the Kiosque de l’Empereur, designed by Gabriel Davioud in 1857, on the southerly tip of the second island.

It is a charming little pavilion, created for the Emperor’s personal use. In early photographs the pavilion can be seen standing in open ground, but today it is largely hidden by volunteer trees and brushwood. Partly restored by the city of Paris, it was sadly closed to the public when we visited yesterday.

Row boats are available for hire at the northern edge of the lake, and are a lovely way to explore this park of which Napoleon III remained so fond.

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