In all my years of living in Paris, I’ve never really been to the Bois de Boulogne. Sure, one time I set off on an ill-advised walk from the Musée Marmottan Monet, imagining I would soon find myself among tranquil gardens filled with robins and swans. Instead, I just wandered, confused, through a lot of concrete roundabouts and sparse patches of bush and mud before giving up.
You see, the Bois de Boulogne is big. Really big. The huge wood makes up for the lack of greenery in much of Paris’ districts; it is the city’s left lung to the Bois de Vincenne’s right. For those who know where to look (i.e. people other than me) there are lakes, forests, picnic areas and a little train for children. But as I discovered, you can’t just walk in from the city and expect to find them. The Bois de Boulogne requires more effort and planning than that.
However, if you don’t have the time or energy to devote a day to the Bois de Boulogne, a good introduction to the Parisian equivalent of Central Park is to visit the Fondation Louis Vuitton, on its northern edges. This contemporary museum is located a five-minute walk from the Les Sablons metro stop in the posh suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine, just beyond the bounds of the 8th and 16th arrondissements. As you wander from Les Sablons past mini-French mansions, the woods loom in the background. It’s a classic, even traditional sight. Then this shattered-glass-rainbow-Easter-egg construction appears against the skyline:
The Fondation Louis Vuitton may be named after its haute couture financier, but the fashion label is not the museum’s focus. Instead, the angular, multi-coloured pod hosts temporary exhibitions; when I visited, the excellent Icons of Modern Art was showing. But it’s the building itself that is most unique, conjuring thoughts of broken Christmas baubles, Russian dolls and the Sydney Opera House.
Across the road, a creek babbles in the quiet woods. But at the LFV, contemporary and avant-garde art hangs in a glass and wood kaleidoscope. Perhaps the Bois de Boulogne is worth the effort, after all.