A two day pass is a good kick in the bum – way to get us out the door by 9am on a Sunday, to make the most of it. There’s no way we would have been otherwise. We went to the Jardin des Plantes on Saturday. We’ve been before, but were a bit rushed, and under the influence of train strikes…

This time we were determined to see it all – or at least the bits that struck our fancy. There’s quite a bit there…

map of jardin des plantes, parisWe started at the Austerlitz metro, on the bottom left hand corner of that map, and stopped first at the Galeries d’Anatomie comparée et de paléontologie (12). In other words BONES! Gargantuan whales, elephants, crocodiles, narwhals, the lot!


galeries d'anatomie comparee et de paleontologie

Lots of bones.

Including human foetuses. And conjoined twins. There is a monsters section! And then specimens in formaldehyde. Fantastically freaky animals preserved with their gullets on show, lots of brains, intestines… so very disgusting and awesome.

After lunch we walked through the gardens. Historically these gardens were a collection of all the different types of plants they could get. It included a medicinal herb garden and was funded by the king. Now, it’s mostly flowers, shrubs and small trees, arranged predominantly by colours and frankly spectacular, though my photos don’t do justice…

Jardin des Plantes, Paris

At the end of the garden is the grand gallery of Evolution, but we saved that for Sunday.

jardin des plantes and grand gallery of evolution in background

Gorgeous shady avenues line the sides but the gardens are in full sun. It was worth a little baking to see it all though.

Next stop, the Menagerie. We visited this last time but Louis just adores animals and we’re fostering Elena’s interest. We raced through last time so it was definitely worth a second visit. We got to see ALL SORTS, including red pandas and little brown bears, who were sleeping so we did a photo op and moved on:

louis and a very old bear

Louis riding a hundred year old bear. Climbing NOT ALLOWED but he didn’t climb it. Technically.

We went to the orang-utans for their feeding time (the youngest rascal stole most of the apricots – un gourmand) then on to the big cats – panthers and leopards who were all dozing, not that we could blame them.

spotting the cats, jardin des plantes menagerie

Spotting the leopards. See him?

keas in parisAnd then there were our compatriots! Keas, destroying the features inside their Parisian cage rather than rental cars in Arthur’s Pass.

Actually, there were quite a few New Zealand birds, but these were the only alive ones. There were kiwis, huias, and others in the gallery of endangered and extinct species in the Gallery of Evolution, but that was Sunday.

After a refreshing ice block we went to the Grandes Serres (glass houses) and wandered through all the many spaces. The first space is the largest and oldest, a spectacular glass palace, and you can walk up three floors to view the canopy from different angles.

tequila cactus There were cacti of all varieties, including the ones they use to make an important ingredient in a frozen margarita, which was just what we felt like, cooking in there.

mosaics in grandes serres

It wasn’t all natural wonders. There were mosaics everywhere! In the train station, a spectacular mural I hadn’t seen before, and then these marvels are just dotted about, on fountains and footpaths and anywhere they fancy, I guess. A lot of them are dated in the 80s – a mosaic revival? I’m storing up pictures for when I, one day, make my own mosaics.

baby in the metro

We took the trains home, with Louis asleep, and Elena charming anyone who caught her eye. She certainly knows how to ride the metro. Always holds on tight…

Day 2:

jardin des plantes We got off the metro one stop earlier on Sunday morning and took a different entrance, through a maze of paths and big trees. Louis was most-excited about the railings he could swing on… like an orang-utan.

We climbed up some big tree-roots and then up a labyrinth to a look-out, from where we could see many trees… and then on to the grand galerie! The gallery of Evolution.

galerie de l'evolution

There were models and taxidermied animals of a thousand types. On the ground floor, the fish, crabs, corals and a Narwhal – like a whale crossed with a unicorn. Awesome. Upstairs there is a huge display of Asian and African animals, quite the march of beasts.

grand galerie de l'evolution

The two floors above that look out over the rest. There is a fascinating exhibition about evolution and about how humans have influenced it by thwarting natural selection.

huia, in the gallery of extinct and endangered species

Huia, one of numerous extinct NZ birds.

And then there was the extinct and endangered species. Fabulous (and of course very sad). The model dodo lives here, modelled after the munted one which got over-fed and a bit mangy travelling back to Europe on a boat. A stuffed Quagga, an extinct cousin of the Zebra, lives here. It is the museum’s oldest specimen, dated 1798.

grande galerie de l'evolution

The whole building is a marvel, and we were very glad to have saved it for the second day of our visit. Sure, it’s all a bit morbid, but fascinating and stunning to go with it.

After that we went for lunch and were running very low on energy. Walked back through the gardens and stopped in at one more tiny gallery about the history of the gardens. This building was next door and we didn’t go in.

the one we missedIf we ever go back, I don’t think I’ll have too much difficulty finding this one. As if the gardens weren’t enough, the architecture is fantastic.