After taking my standard walk a number of times I decided to try something more adventuresome, and after a look at a map I hit upon a route that would take me around the borders of the fifth arrondissement. I set out the same way, walking down my little street to the quays but then, instead of crossing the street and turning left I simply turned right and set out to the east. When I reached the point at which Boulevard St. Germain begins, I found myself facing the Institute of the Arab World, a large center of all things Arabic that has a lovely rooftop café from which one can see a great deal of old Paris. Continuing on, I passed the branch of the University of Paris devoted to science – the Pierre and Marie Curie campus – and then the rather pathetic zoo that Paris maintains, but this in turn brought me to the magnificent Botanical Garden or Jardin des Plantes where Susie and I have spent many happy hours wandering among the plantings. Susie began life as a botanist and loves to visit the Botanical Garden whenever we are in Paris. One of the truly strange effects of aging on her mind is that even when she can no longer remember the common names of plants, flowers, and trees she seems to have no difficulty remembering their Latin botanical names.
At this point on my walk I angle not quite 90° to the right and start up the Boulevard d l’Höpital, which, since it is going away from the river is uphill. Before too long I angle right again onto Boulevard St. Marcel, which forms part of the southern border of the fifth. At this point I am walking roughly southwest, until I reached the intersection with the beginning of Avenue des Gobelins. One more slight turn to the right and now there is a long stretch of Boulevard du Port Royal, which takes me past a large hospital complex on my right until finally I come to the Port Royal RER station. The RER is a suburban light rail that brings workers into central Paris every day and by the time I reach it men and women are streaming out of the station heading to the hospital and other places to begin the work day. This is the southwest corner of the fifth, and a right turn gets me onto Boulevard St. Michel. As I walk north on the right hand side of the Boulevard, the great Jardin de Luxembourg is on my left. Susie and I have spent countless enjoyable hours in the Luxembourg Gardens having wine at the café or watching children and adults sail their boats in the circular pond in its middle (even, on one occasion, seeing a man sailing a remote-controlled submarine in the pond – I posted the picture I took of that on this blog some years ago.) Years ago I bought a fancy picnic basket and once Susie and I loaded it with tasty cheeses, pates, bread, and pastries, added a bottle of red for me and a bottle of white for her, and had a picnic under the trees in the Jardin. Truth to tell, it was more fun eating at the café and we did not have Renoir painting a picture of us, but it made a good story.
To complete my circumnavigation of the fifth I would have had to walk all the way to the river before turning right and making my way home but on this first and all subsequent occasions when I reached the entrance to the Gardens I decided to turn right on rue Soufflot and walk up the hill to Place du Pantheon. When I reached the Pantheon I bore around to the left on northern face of it until I reached a little street called rue Valette. This plunges precipitously downhill, turning into rue des Carmes, before ending at Place Maubert, from which it was a short distance up rue Maitre Albert to our building.
The first time I did this walk it took me just about an hour, even though it seemed a great deal longer than that because the scene had changed so many times on its way. I felt that I had accomplished something very daring and immediately began thinking about other circumnavigations that I might attempt. Tomorrow I will tell you about my one venture into Paris across the river – my circumnavigation of the fourth.