Paris is filled with enough museums, monuments, landmarks and cultural attractions to keep a person busy for a lifetime. By the time you think that you must have seen each one, you learn of a dozen more. Even if you could see all of them, by the time you visited the last one, the collections would have changed in many of them and new collections would have come to town as well. One of the best national treasures of France is certainly her diversity of parks. My favorite park in Paris is the Parc des Buttes Chaumont. It is on the site of an old quarry and was commissioned by Napoleon lll and completed in 1860. Rather than focusing on the history of the park, I will tell you what's to like about it. For me, I am a bit biased because it is only steps from the front door of my friends / business partners in Paris. I can leave "our" apartment and in just a few minutes I am through the Botzaris entrance and walking in the park. Buttes Chaumont is a large tear-drop shaped park of over 60 acres in size and hosting several kilometers of walking paths and trails. It is on the edge of the 19th arrondisement of Paris near the 20th arrondisement. There are restaurants inside the park, but you won't be dodging cars nor bicycles. It is definitely a pedestrian park where dogs are allowed but leash laws are strictly enforced. There are several enclosed dog runs within the park (let's call them porta-potties where dogs are allowed to do their business, and owners are allowed to scoop - or be invited to leave the park).
Buttes Chaumont is truly an idyllic place to spend an afternoon or to have a picnic (alone or with friends). The old quarry site was converted into a lake against tall, jagged, stone cliffs, a beautiful, suspended foot-bridge, and the Belvedere of Sybil (photo above) at the top of one of the high peaks on an island in the lake. There are several beautiful bridges and overlooks as well as a waterfall which cascades over 60 feet inside a huge grotto. Last year I was lucky enough to visit the grotto at a time when some of the local firemen were using the area for training. In one location they were practicing the rescue of an accident victim by pulling the litter (rescue basket) up a high precipice along a crevice with a falling stream. Inside the grotto, another team of firemen were doing the same thing, but were lowering the litter by cable from the top of the waterfall and across the pool below. It was fantastic to watch; they performed like a well orchestrated ballet. On other occasions I have visited the park when it remained open beyond the 9:00PM curfew for a new event sponsored by the Mayor of the 19th arrondisement. He opens the park in the evenings for movies in the park. It's really fun to be in the park after dusk to sit on the grass and watch independent and artsy films. What a nice and intellectual excuse to sit on the grass, drink wine from flask and enjoy an evening in Paris without spending a dime.