If someone asked me to pick the one moment when I felt like Paris had become my home, I would say that it was when my husband, Leon, and I walked into Parc Monceau for the first time.
It was Christmas of 2014. The weather was crisp and clean, and the sky was a beautiful pale blue, tinged with violet. Leon and I had been wandering around the 17th arrondissement, looking for neighborhoods we liked, knowing that sometime in the next month we’d be moving here.
Since the city of Paris is laid out in a star-pattern, seven different streets in the 17th lead you directly to the 20-foot tall, wrought-iron and gold-leaf gates of the park. The moment we walked through that massive entrance by the beautiful pavilion, I knew we were someplace special.
We strolled through the park together, just people-watching and getting a feel for the place. Somehow, this gorgeous space manages to feel relaxing and busy at the same time. The park is laid out in a big rectangle, and around every corner, you’ll find people doing something interesting and fun.
There’s a long, oval jogging track along the perimeter of the park crammed full of Parisians running off the baguettes they ate at dinner the night before. Inside that track are several, large green lawns where dozens of couples are always picnicking or just lying around, soaking up the sun. Towards the base of the park is a beautiful, man-made pond with a set of Roman columns curving around one end; the ducks hang out there. On the side lawns, there’s always a few private kickboxing lessons and one or two small groups practicing Tai Chi. Even the French version of the Girl Scouts meets here!
A wide, promenade runs through the center of the park from north-to-south and east-to-west. This area is lined with benches which are almost always full. Old folks sit in their Sunday best, just chatting with each other about their lives.
There are pony rides for the children every Saturday and Sunday. The braver kids toss bread to the ducks and try to pet them. They never get very close — mostly they just run and giggle wildly. The youngest ones take turns riding the beautiful, antique carousel. It’s covered in Edison bulbs and even has an old-fashioned calliope for music. This carousel isn’t just limited to standard merry-go-round horses, either. It has all sorts of magnificent and magical creatures: leaping fish, beautiful swans, fiery stallions, and unicorns. It even has a turn-of-the-century, Jules Verne-style hot air balloon. All of them stand ready to coax along the imaginations of the small children playing there.
On that first visit to the Parc Monceau, surrounded by the families and the old folks, the pony rides and the joggers, I felt an inexplicable wave of belonging – like I had found my way back home. I turned to Leon with tears in my eyes, and said “This is where we belong. We’re home. If you can find an apartment within walking distance of this park and Rue de Levis, that would be perfect.” And that is exactly what he did.
We live in the 8th arrondissement now, just about a five-minute walk from Parc Monceau. We go there all the time. In fact, long ago, I started referring to it as “our” park. It is still a magical place for me, as it is for many others. I’m not kidding; Songs have been written about this park. Poems too. It’s breathtaking here.
There are bigger parks, of course, more glamorous ones like Parc Luxembourg, but in my opinion, none is better than Parc Monceau. It is the very best version of a neighborhood park, right up there with Central Park in New York. It is a part of everyday life in our neighborhood. It is vibrant and alive, and peaceful and calm, all at once.
Parc Monceau is my favorite place in the entire city of Paris to sit and soak up the atmosphere of Paris. We grab an almond croissant from Rue de Levis and sit on a bench with the pups while we watch the world turn. It’s romance at its finest.
To see photos and hear a beautiful, little love song about Parc Monceau, click here: https://youtu.be/rDPg7ysBCoA
4 thoughts on “Parc Monceau in Paris”
What a lovely memory. I can close my eyes and almost taste the picnic lunch we enjoyed, sitting by the pond, watching the young children line up for pony rides.
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I know. What a special place! I’m so glad you got to see how beautiful it is in person!
In the late ‘Seventies, I received a gift of a large framed poster of Parc Monceau. I knew right away that it was a special place. Years later, my French friend, Eliane, saw the poster, commented on what an exquisite place it is, and talked about her childhood trips to it.
Other French friends have said that from the smallest square, Place de Furstenberg, to the largest parks and the “woods” Vincennes and Boulogne, Parc Monceau is the most special. Fortunately for those in the neighborhood, it is not a static museum, but like Paris, is alive with the energy of people practicing what the French know so well, the art of life. Last December, you wrote about l’art de la politesse, which is a vital ingredient of l’art de vivre.
How brilliant of you and Leon to live near Parc Monceau!
And, how sad I am that you will not be writing about it any more, that is, for now. I have read every one of your posts and enjoyed your insights, your excellent writing, and your passion for Paris.
As much as you love la Ville Lumière, you will be returning to add your own glow.
All the best to you and Leon in your life journeys!
How wonderful that you know Parc Monceau and you actually “get” how special a place it is. Every time I walk the grounds I think to myself how lucky we were to call it our little park. I love your comments. They are always sweet and kind and filtered through the eyes of another lover of my favorite city in the world.
Thank you…for everything,