Parc de Boulogne
so technically Boulogne is not Paris, but it’s
as close as a suburb can be, lying next-door to the
16th arrondissement. The same train/bus pass that
will take you sight-seeing around the centre of Paris
will also take you out to Boulogne-Billancourt. With
the plethora of parks and attractions Paris has to
offer, it may seem strange to delve beyond the comfort
of the better known tourist tracks, but Parc de Boulogne,
Edmond de Rothschild, has much charm if not only for
my friends the coypus.
I am sure there are several
ways to arrive here. I myself, hopped onto the number
52 bus, and with the aid of street map and my Parisian
guide, found it without too many difficulties. It
is close to the hospital (Hôpital Ambroise Pare
I believe), so if you look for signs for the hôpital
you should not go far wrong. The park’s official
address is: 3, rue des Victoires, 92100 Boulogne-Billancourt.
is quite different from the working class, cotton
mill town on the edge of the Saddleworth hills, that
I had been accustomed to living these past few years.
Affluence is abundant, and the residents all appear
well groomed, well dressed and rich. It’s conducive
to a sense of security, but to the unkempt, unfashionable
visitor like my good self, there’s an underlying
feeling of being like a fish out of water.
Having arrived in Paris with little to no means for
making an income (no mean feat for somebody who avoids
risks at all costs), and awaiting an application with
the Chambre de Commerce, I allowed myself a lazy May
afternoon break from all the preparatory work that
even Sisyphus would have grumbled over. With picnic
blanket, camera, bottled water, and the sun on my
face I walked through the entrance and into the green.
first thing to notice is a modern sculpture built
from derelict wood; it makes a change from the typical
sculptures found in most Paris parks, but modern art
is frequently lost on me. As you come out into lush
green pastures it’s hard not to miss the dilapidated
building that lurks behind. Its derelict nature complete
with graffiti is not entirely distasteful, especially
when everything else about the area is so pompous
and clean. If you enjoyed the sculpture at the entrance,
you may find it holds greater appeal to you.
Across the pasture to the pond lies a small subdued
waterfall, and if you arrive in Spring you may catch
mummy goose with her goslings. Over to the right lies
a red Japanese styled bridge and another pond, and
I swore my eyes were playing tricks when in the distance,
sat on protruding dead tree limbs, I thought I saw
terrapins. As I approached closer my girlfriend pointed
out a rodent swimming to shore, which I assumed to
be a vole or water rat, and felt quite sure it would
disappear down a burrow. To my amazement, not only
did it remain close to the edge of the pond, but two
more appeared and came within touching distance. A
French lady with child told us the locals sometimes
feed them, and whilst they will eat anything, they
have a fondness for carrot. It was only later when
we translated the correct name from French (ragondin)
into English, that I discovered these were juvenile
coypus. Even then the name didn’t mean much
to me, as these cute critters (considered pests) are
native to south America, and whilst they once lived
in England (having escaped their fate in the fur trade),
they were eradicated in the 1980’s. I was even
more amazed to discover the adults can grow up to
60cm, but there were none to be seen on this particular
day. Maybe these were escapees or put there by the
park authorities, but they certainly added an amusement
factor as they chased the tails of ducks, and playfully
pushed down on floating terrapins.
Coypu is a herbivore and semi-aquatic rodent,
considered a pest due to its destructive feeding
and burrowing. They're considered passive and
social animals that are both nocturnal and shy
(unless they're juveniles put into a Paris park
and fed by the locals).
The coypu can breath underwater for ten minutes,
and live also on land, despite having an awkward
In parts of America, their numbers became so
out of control, a price was put on each head,
and within a fortnight 9,000 were killed, with
a target of 391,000 more to be eradicated before
the end of the year.
Their natural predators include large snakes,
wild cats, wolves, crocodiles and otters. In
Paris, natural predators include humans and
harsh winters (apparently frost bite can affect
the tails, leading to infection and death).
Photo: Coypu Bisou
the second pond lie more green fields, where the occasional
lover lies amongst buttercups and whispering leaves.
The gentle trot of horses’ hooves can be heard
in the neighbouring horse training grounds as the
serpentine path leads off into wooded grounds. To
the back of the park are the well tended grounds of
a Japanese themed garden, which I found devoid of
human presence asides the gardeners working upon it.
It offers welcomed shade on a sunny day.
The Edmond de Rothschild park covers
15 hectares and does not take too long to walk around,
but it is a very pleasant
escape. Upon completing our circular route, we laid
out the blanket, half in and half out of the sun, so
that I could read without the reflective glare from
my pages, and my girlfriend could soak up the heat like
a terrapin upon a branch. Every ten minutes we would
have to reposition ourselves to chase the moving shadow
of the tree, until I put down my book and vegetated
under the sun’s rays too.