Sunday afternoon in the Champ de Mars, a beautiful long park running down to the Eiffel Tower. Dazzling sun in a clear blue sky. Parisians stroll with their dogs, a lady feeds the birds a bit of baguette and, from a small dusty corner when I hear “Mummy, can I go to the Carousel? Please?” Or ‘manege’ as he likes to call them.
I never gave much thought to carousels as I passed around Paris before. But they are all over the city, planted in strategic locations waiting to pounce on their prime targets… Children. But Paris carousels are a source of delight, both to the child and to the parents who buy carousel tickets to avoid a public meltdown. There is something amazingly zen about putting that leather safety strap around a child’s waist and watching them turn around and around.
There are plenty of carousels around the city, so here a few noteworthy carousels of Paris to get you started (some are worth the trip alone):
Champ de Mars
Metro: Ecole Militaire (line 8)
Children are given a baton to play “catch the ring”, a game in which children, while mounted on their horses, try to catch little rings placed on a rack as the carousel turns. The game is derived from a version Louis XIV of France created. Marie Antoinette was particularly fond of playing this game on her own carousel of wooden horses at Versailles. Centuries later, children still love playing this game of “catch the rings”, which is simply a delight to watch.
Jardin du Ranelagh
Metro: Ranelagh (line 1)
Gustave Bayol, a sculptor who later focused on merry-go-rounds, became France’s well-known carousel carver. He created the animals that make their eternal rounds in the carousels of Bois de Vincennes and Jardin du Ranelagh.
Jardin du Luxembourg
Métro: Odéon (line 4), RER B: Luxembourg
The green-roofed carousel in the Jardin du Luxembourg is small and discreet, nothing fancy like the double-decker carousels we find at Hotel de Ville or La Defense. It’s also the oldest one in Paris, dating back to 1879, and the beat-up, weather-worn animals that millions of children have ridden over centuries were actually sketched by Charles Garnier, architect of the Opera house in Paris.
Jardin de Plantes
Metro: Gare D’Austerlitz (line 5 or 10)
Dodo Manège, so read the hand-painted wood sign in front of this picturesque carousel, a merry-go-round of extinct and endangered species. A must-see for my warm-weather trips to Paris. It is found near the southeast entrance to Jardin de Plantes and can be located by the sounds of the carousel music and children’s laughter.
Parc des Buttes Chamont
Metro: Buttes Chamont (line 7)
The Parc des Buttes Chaumont has a carousel that features over sized versions of small rabbits, cats and other animals.
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