Flâneries in Paris: Explore the Wonders of Vincennes

Flâneries in Paris: Explore the Wonders of Vincennes
This is the fourth in a series of walking tours highlighting the sites and stories of diverse districts of Paris. A box of delights awaited me when I got off the metro at Château de Vincennes at the end of Line 1, just on the edge of the Bois de Vincennes. As soon as I came up the steps out of the station I saw the château right in front of me, and the map told me that a few minutes’ stroll would take me to the Parc Floral, one of the city’s loveliest botanical gardens and leisure areas. So, a walk unlike any in central Paris beckoned. The Métro at Château Vincennes © Chabe01/ Wikimedia Commons I could have opted to wander the grounds for no cost, but I chose instead to pay the entrance fee to get inside the castle and the Sainte-Chapelle de Vincennes. I walked first along the enclosure wall of the keep, four sides of a square, one storey above the ground, pausing in each corner turret to look inside at the vaulted ceilings and study the pictures recreating the bright colors of the original. The building has been so well restored that it was easy to imagine castle life: the king taking the air out here – perhaps walking with his advisers along the special “rampart path” leading out to the garden – scurrying chamberlains and servants, the sound of the gatehouse bell pealing canonical hours to indicate the daily round of church services. The exterior of the Château de Vincennes.© Marian Jones The towering gatehouse was immediately imposing and once inside I began imagining life in past centuries when medieval monarchs lived here for at least part of the year. The large area inside the stone wall with its nine watch towers is a world apart from the bustle of Vincennes; the 14th-century stone castle with turrets sits squatly facing the soaring gothic spire of the Sainte-Chapelle de Vincennes, modeled on its namesake on the Île de la Cité. King Charles V (1338-80) was largely responsible for both, having decided to build a strong fortification on land formerly used as royal hunting grounds; he sought protection during the battles which became known as the Hundred Years War. The Château de Vincennes became the country palace of many French kings until the late 17th century when Louis XIV built Versailles as an even more impressive alternative. Château de Vincennes engraving by William Miller after Turner. Public Domain

Lead photo credit : Château de Vincennes. © Marian Jones

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Recently retired from teaching Modern Languages (French and German), Marian now has time to develop her interests in travel and European culture and history. She will be in Paris as often as she can, visiting places old and new, finding out their stories and writing it all up as soon as she gets home. Marian also runs the weekly podcast series, City Breaks, offering in-depth coverage of popular city break destinations, with lots of background history and cultural information. She has covered Paris in 22 episodes but looks forward to updating the series every now and then with some Paris Extra episodes.