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Road Through Time by Mary Soderstrom

Road Through Time

by Mary Soderstrom

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Saturday, 26 July 2014

Saturday Photo: The Longest Day of the Year in the Bois de Vincennes Bis

Looks like a very bucolic setting but this was taken five minutes walk from the Porte d'Or and the Péripherique highway in Paris.  As I noted last Saturday, we had the pleasure of spending the afternoon of the longest day of this year picnicking  in the Bois de Vincennes with friends a few weeks ago.

The park, which once upon a time was the hunting ground of French kings, was set aside along with the Bois de Boulogne on the other side of Paris in the middle of the 19th century.  Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann, architect of the great rejigging of Paris under Napoléon III, wasn't as convinced of the usefulness of big parks as was the Emperor, but nonetheless the parks were established in the hopes that through "a process of slow seduction they would lead these offspring of the city’s working poor to better habits.  and (to) the gradual amelioration of the morals of the working classes."

In the Baron's lifetime, the parks were not used much because of “the distance, the time needed to go and come and the cost of even the most economical  of transports which ended up being too much to be done very often." But he added in his memoirs:   "It is a pleasure to see that on each holiday the popular masses invade the two woods, spread out all over  the parks and enjoy themselves, feeling that they are at home there.”

Today it's easy to get to the parks, with Metro stops close by, and thousands of people living within walking distance.  They are used well and seemingly respectfully:  despite the crowds that Saturday, groups didn't interfere with each other, and enjoying one's place in the sun (or the shade) seemed everyone's goal. 


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