in Parc des Buttes Chaumont
2, allée de la Cascade 75019 Paris
Métro: Botzaris (Ligne 7 Bis)
So I’m not the first self-loathing hipster to wax poetic about Rosa Bonheur, and I certainly won’t be the last. The concept is just so stellar. It starts with one gorgeous, off the beaten path, Parisian park. Buttes Chaumont is surely my favorite public garden in Paris. It seriously makes me feel like I’m in Mirbeau’s torture garden minus all the gore (bonus points if you get that reference, and let’s be friends). This might have something to do with the fact that B erroneously told me that this was a major site for public executions in the eighteenth century (it wasn’t). While not nearly as tightly manicured as the Jardin du Luxembourg or the Jardin des Plantes (my other favorite places to go on a sunny day), Buttes Chaumont makes up for it with traditionally styled English and Chinese gardens. The space began as a limestone and gypsum quarry, leaving the space full of miniature mountains and cliffs that you can climb up to ex(e/o)rcise your inner mountaineer. The park also has a large lake that contains both a grotto with an enclosed 65-foot high waterfall and an island accessible by a 200-foot long suspension bridge (aptly nicknamed the “suicide bridge”). The island itself is a verdant, craggy peak, atop which sits the belvedere of Sybil. Wikipedia informs me that the belvedere was added to the park in 1869 and is a Corinthian-style monument, modeled after the ancient Roman temple of Sybil in Tivoli, Italy. I’ll inform you that it is one of my favorite views in Paris.
Here’s an old timey map of the park:
See that little building called “Pavilion du Chemin de Fer”? Well, since it was a railway outpost had many culinary incarnations, including this one from the nineteenth century:
The people at Rosa Bonheur renovated this amazing historic building to be a sort of bobo wonderland, complete with two bars with cheap rosé, yummy snacks, lots of outdoor seating, great music, and a view of the sunset. Here’s the outside in 2010:
And the inside:
The food is built around the wonderfully simple concept that you can eat everything accompanied by a brown paper bag of freshly sliced baguette. On a recent visit, our spread looked like this:
Clockwise from the top, that’s an aged comté, slices of spicy chorizo, black olive and fig tapenade, dry sausage, and a lovely jar of duck rillettes. At a couple of euros for each component with a big bag of bread, you can put together quite a picnic. Pair that with some cold beers or a bottle of rosé and you’ve got yourself a nice lazy afternoon.
The logistics are kind of heavy on this place. First of all, the park itself is on the bizarre line 7 bis, a one-way, miniature subway line complete with a short train and a maddeningly slow schedule. B refuses to even take it and insists on walking from Jourdain on line 11. I’d recommend instead that you suck it up, take the 7 bis, and get off at Bozartis. As you exit the métro, the park will be on your right hand side. Walk up about a block to the entrance, then veer left on the path about another block to Rosa. You can obviously enter the park anywhere, but it can sometimes be quite a hike to get to Rosa if you start at the bottom of the hill. You can think of it as earning those rillettes.
My favorite time to go to Rosa is in the afternoon, as it is bar none one of the best places to laze away with friends on a sunny day. The park gates close at 7 p.m. and Rosa becomes kind of a scene, with hoards of Chuck Taylor and tortoiseshell glasses clad hipsters waiting at the gates to be slowly let in by an unamused park security guard. So if you want to go there for the evening, just show up at six so that you can get in to the park without a wait. Try and snag one of the tables to your right as you enter the restaurant if you want a killer view of the sunset and the envy of the coolest kids in Paris.
Details: I think I’ve covered it, though Rosa also has a very comprehensive website, from which I lifted both the map and the old photo of the pavilion. Sometimes their hours get funky with the change of the seasons or private events, so it’s worth visiting their website or Facebook page if you are planning a visit. On another note, it’s a very friendly place for kids and dogs, both of which run around in joyous abundance.