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Keith Austin: When the world is your lobster Stories from a former Travel Editor of the Sydney Morning Herald.

Strolling along the Bois de Boulogne...

FRANCE | Thursday, 11 June 2009 | Views [805] | Comments [1]

SPRING sprang in Paris and then sprang right away again; we’ve experienced the first prolonged period of persistent pluie since arriving four and a half months ago and although the rain has stopped it’s left behind cloudy blue skies and a cold wind.

Before the rain set in, I took a trip out to the Bois de Boulogne for a stroll. Imagine that Paris itself had decided to have a picnic; well, this is where it threw a great green rug, spreading it right across the western reaches of the peripherique where the Seine turns almost back on itself and heads north.

All the guidebooks warn that the park is seedy – this is where the infamous Catherine M went to shag strings of strangers in her car – and dangerous at night so I took the coward’s way out and went over a lunchtime.

The Bois extends over more than 2000 acres so a return visit will be needed to get a full idea of what it’s like but I did manage a slow turn around the boating lake and back, with a cafe crème thrown in at the little Cafe d’Acacia hut on the eastern edge.

To be honest, it’s full of ducks and joggers. At least at lunchtime. And really, it’s basically just a park – albeit one from which you can see the Eiffel Tower.

Perhaps there’s more further in – and it’s said to be a favourite playground of Parisians on Sunday afternoon – but it’s really just ... a park. Does the fact that it’s in Paris make it any more than that?

Central Park is New York’s great green lung but it does have the added attraction of being lined with skyscrapers. This, on the other hand, could have been Victoria Park in my alma mater of Tower Hamlets, East London. And would I advise a tourist to go there? Well, certainly if you go there and breathe deeply of the fresh-ish air you could well be sucking in a bit of my dad as I spread his ashes there a couple of years ago ... oh, please yourself, missus.

Ditto Centennial Park; though that has the advantage of being full of birdlife that tourists from the northern hemisphere would only ever see in cage or on docos.

On the other hand, perhaps only in Paris would a bloke get up from his table at the cafe and call to his dog thus: “Come on, we’re going ... Matisse? Matisse!”

Matisse? Naturellement.

  • ON the way back to the Porte Dauphine Metro, revelling in what had become a beautiful sunny day, a chap on a bicycle swept past me and then turned angrily and hissed: “Fifi - depeche toi!”

Now, even my French extends to understanding this and I looked round expecting a young daughter or downtrodden wife to be labouring up the slight incline. Instead, tongue hanging out and almost dragging on the ground, was one of those hairy little sausage dogs, its stumpy legs going ten to the dozen as it tried to keep up.

And I swear to you that the poor thing looked up at me with big doey eyes as it struggled past, as if to say ‘Have you clocked this? He’s on a BIKE, for fuck’s sake. I’ll give him ‘dépêche toi’ - I’m going to shit in his slippers tonight, you see if I don’t’.

  • AND, finally, sticking to the dog motif, check out the pictures accompanying this instalment. In particular the red sign that we spotted on a motorbike in the 19th a few weeks ago. It translates as: ‘Stop! This motorbike is not a urinal for dogs. Thank you.’



Parisians love taking their dogs wherever they go, i have been here four days and they were there at the airport when i arrived, in the grocery shop whene i bought food, in the newspaper shop, all over the streets ... but 90% of them are toy dogs, accessories to the Parisian, not pets as such.

  alastair Jun 12, 2009 6:32 AM

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