The Bois de Boulogne is a beautiful expanse of green on Paris' western edge that often gets a bad rap as a dangerous place, home to hookers and cruisers and who knows what else. But during daylight hours, it's a lovely retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city and all that stone and concrete. At over 2,000 acres, its grounds include several lakes with rowboat rentals, a hippodrome for horse races, a sweet old-fashioned amusement park, several high-end restaurants as well as places to picnic, and paths for walkers, bikers, and roller bladers. Once we navigate the crazy couple of blocks in Paris traffic to get there, it's a great place for the whole family to bike, particularly on the weekends when several of the major roads are blocked off to cars.
Smack in the middle is the Jardin de Bagatelle, an oasis behind gilded gates that includes a rose garden, meadows, and a little chateau built in just 64 days as part of a bet between Marie Antoinette and her brother-in-law, the Count d'Artois. This weekend, the peacocks were showing off their feathers, an exposition of kimonos was on display, and over 500 different kinds of roses, including those named after Monet, Pissarro, Dior, and Gina Lollobrigida, were in full bloom. The skies threatened but the rain held off until we were safely home, bikes stowed. Not a bad outing for a Sunday afternoon.