I’m sure when I say the word “Paris” there are several landmarks that come to mind such as Notre Dame or nearby Versailles. I’m also sure that none of them are the Botanical Garden. I know I hadn’t thought of going there before, but I ended up on a very specific and kinda silly quest that led me there. And I’m so glad that it did, or I never would have know about it.
My sis-in-law participates in the Great International Scavenger Hunt (GISH) every year. In short, teams of people get together to do random, fun challenges and then post pics and videos on social media. Most of the challenges are things you can do from anywhere, such balancing 11 food items between your face and the lips of your significant other. (Those pics are hilarious btw). Other challenges are site-specific. GISH happened to be the same week I was in Paris, so I agreed to help her out.
I had to find the “Dodo Menage”, a carousel with only extinct and endangered animals on it, and get a picture of me dressed as an endangered species. I didn’t have a real costume, but I did have some felt and a long train ride, so I made myself a tiger mask. The picture itself didn’t actually work out as planned because adults aren’t allowed to ride. It’s a cute little thing nestled in between among buildings like the paleontology museum, but it belongs to the Hall of Evolution.
The Hall of Evolution
I used to work in science museums, so I’ve seen my fair share of taxidermied animals. Even so, I was completely blown away with both the scope of their collection and how dynamic they could make displays of animals sitting perfectly still. The first floor was dedicated to sea life, and you can see from the pictures that they used moody blue lighting to make you feel like you were under the sea, strolling around with schools of fish. Some of the coolest and weirdest creatures didn’t turn out in photos because they were part of low-light displays.
On your way up to the second level, you pass through displays about arctic animals, many of which spend as much time in the water as out. And at the top, the whole area is dominated by creatures of the African savannah. As you can see from the pics, the lighting on this floor was both dramatic and changeable. The ceiling cycled through all the colors of the rainbow, and if you wait long enough, the light show spreads to one of the walls and you get to experience a thunderstorm. There are a lot more animals flanking the main display here, but my pictures were too dark to share.
One thing that fascinated me about this method of display was that I could get an idea of the relative sizes of these animals in a way you never would be able to in other museums. Small mammals were interspersed among the hooves and paws of this Jumanji-esque stampede that made me appreciate how very big some of the other animals were. Plus, no glass between you and the displays in this section, except for the panels and panels of insects on the sides.
Upstairs, it’s more of a traditional museum set up and the 19th century roots of the building were clear. There is a lot more interpretive text and labels, as well as some cases where they should you the process of mounting specimens. Overall, the hall is very dark in order to preserve these pieces, many of which are hundreds of years old. And as impressive as the stuff you can see is, it turns out to only be something like 1% of their holdings.
The Jardin du Plantes
As I’ve mentioned in my other posts about this trip, it was HOT while we were there. So, we made sure to get there early enough to stroll through the gardens and not melt. Unlike the gardens at Versailles, there was more of a wildness and vibrancy to the way the garden was curated. It certainly had the gravel walkways and manicured grass, but the plants were artfully arrange in blocks of color and shape. I admit, I was having such a nice time looking at the plants and flowers that I hardly took any pictures. This complex boasts not only the halls I’ve already named, but also a huge green house and a zoo. If you are visiting Paris with people in different age groups, they will certainly all find things to enjoy about this stop.
Missed the other posts? Check out Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 in this series about visiting Paris.