Since we had only stayed briefly after meeting the family there last week, we wanted to go back for a more leisurely stroll and to find le Jardin Alpin. I had looked down into it as we walked to the playground and wondered why I hadn't really noticed it before, separated by a fence from the walkway and dropped down a whole level.
Before we got to the Jardin though, we stopped for a quick tour of the Institut du Monde Arabe. Not only is the building's architecture a big draw, but there is also an outstanding viewing deck on the top floor, plus it's all open to the public and free. Then we circled around through the Faculte des Sciences buildings and arrived again at the side entrance to le Jardin des Plantes.
First off was a walk through the maze of bushes, winding up and up to the very top neoclassical tower. Along the way we passed several huge trees with signs dating them from the 1700's, and which ironically reminded me of the Marin coast, I guess mostly because of the immense Cedar tree. Down at the bottom again, having passed up the kids' shortcut through the maze, we headed for the Jardin Alpin, enticingly close but all fenced in. Getting in turned out to be tricky, until Peter pointed out the tunnel connecting to it from another garden that was not all fenced in. Coming out of the tunnel into the Alpine Garden was like entering a miniature, closely planted world of outcroppings covered with moss and tiny flowers, small steps leading up and around, and almost hidden paths under dense foliage. Once back through the tunnel we headed for the main path through the garden but were put off by windy gusts raising mini tornadoes of dust. Steering to the far side, we discovered the Iris Garden in full bloom, an apt replacement for my favorite fall display of dahlias. As with the dahlias, the iris collection was incredibly broad, showcasing much more than the basic purple. Who knew a brown iris could be so beautiful.
When we happened to walk down rue de Poissy, we made our last discovery for the day, le College des Bernardins, a renovated abbey from the 13th century now used for art displays, concerts and spiritual reflection. We wouldn't have realized it was open to the public but for a Frenchman who saw us admiring the exterior and stopped to urge us to visit inside. We had espressos in the cafe, marveled at the vaulted ceilings, admired some modern art, and reflected in silence in the small chapel - a thoughtful ending to another Paris day.