From the Luxembourg Garden to the Eiffel Tower
Starting point: Place Edmond-Rostand (RER Luxembourg, 3.6 miles, 6th & 7th districts)
Always crowded with children and students, the Luxembourg Garden, with a surface of 62 acres, is a harmonious mix of French-style and English-style gardens. It is also a place rich with historical and artistic memories of Italy. The Luxembourg Palace, which is now home to the French Senate, was designed by Salomon de Brosse for Maria de' Medici, Henry IV's widow. It is in fact reminiscent of Florence's Pitti Palace.
A "must-see" is the marvellous Medicis' Fountain, where an irate Polyphemus catches sweet Galatea with Acis.
Statues of the great ladies of France are scattered throughout the garden.
Leave the garden through the place André-Honnorat exit and walk along the Observatory gardens. At the end, turn around and enjoy the superb view over the rows of chestnut-trees, the Luxembourg Palace and, if the weather is good, the Sacré-Coeur and Montmartre.
The Observatory fountain (featured in the movie "Gigi"), created by Davioud in 1875, is one of the most photogenic in Paris. The sculptures representing the four parts of the world are due to Carpeaux (some of his works can be seen at the Orsay Museum), while the horses and dolphins are due to Frémiet.
The Paris Observatory, the oldest among those still in operation, was completed in 1672, on a plan by Claude Perrault, brother of Charles, the well-known fairy-tale writer. From 1669 to 1791, it was directed by the Cassinis, astronomers of Italian origin. A side-street near the Observatory has been named after this great family of scientists.
The building's north-south orientation follows the axis of the Paris meridian, which used to be the first meridian, until it was replaced by that of Greenwich.
At the corner with boulevard du Montparnasse stands Rude's statue of Marshal Ney, the "bravest of the brave", who was shot here in 1815.
In the early 1900s, Ernest Hemingway, together with many other writers and artists, was a regular at the pleasant "Closerie des Lilas".
Proceed along boulevard du Montparnasse and then turn left onto rue Campagne-Première. At no. 9 there are still studios which used to be occupied by artists like Rilke and De Chirico. The final scene of "A bout de souffle", starring Jean-Paul Belmondo, was shot at no. 11. Eugène Atget, the photographer who has left us so many precious images of working-class Paris, had his studio at no. 17bis. In the 1920s, a great many artists, models and writers, such as Man Ray, Kiki, Kisling, Picabia, Rilke, Josephine Baker and her company, Aragon and Elisa Triolet at the beginning of their love story, stayed at the Istria Hotel (no. 29). When Aragon and Triolet's economic situation improved, they were able to move into the building at nos. 31-31bis (designed by Arfvidson), where Man Ray, already famous, had been living since 1922.
Cross boulevard Raspail and take boulevard Edgar-Quinet, along the wall of the Montparnasse Cemetery.
Near the Edgar-Quinet Métro (underground/subway) station, the café "La Liberté" pays homage to one of its regulars, Jean-Paul Sartre, who spent many hours here, writing his biggest novel, "Les Chemins de la Liberté".
Cross rue du Départ and the square between the Montparnasse Tower and the railway station. You might seize this opportunity to take the lift up to the top floor of the Tower, that offers one of the loveliest views over the city, if not the loveliest of all.
Cross rue de l'Arrivée and follow the sidewalk of place Bienvenüe (the "father" of the Parisian Métro), on the left of the tunnel. Turn left onto rue Antoine-Bourdelle, a quieter street. At no. 10, a small house and its tiny garden still "resist", while at no. 16, the sculptor Antoine Bourdelle, who had been Rodin's assistant, lived from 1885 until his death in 1929. His house and garden have been turned into the Bourdelle Museum.
Turn left again onto rue Falguière and then right onto rue Dulac. Notice the three fine studios and their large windows at no. 18. The small building at no. 9 has an Art Nouveau façade covered with white and turquoise tiles.
Cross rue de Vaugirard and enter the impasse de l'Enfant-Jésus, where the large Necker-Enfants Malades Hospital, the oldest children's hospital in the world, is situated, www.hopital-necker.aphp.fr (in French). It was here that René Théophile Hyacinthe Laennec invented the stethoscope in 1816. See stone plate at 149-151, rue de Sèvres, 7th district, tinyurl.com/lv725p
(Should the entrance to the hospital be closed, leave the impasse and turn right onto rue de Vaugirard. Walk down boulevard Pasteur to the cross-roads where avenue de Breteuil starts.)
Leave the hospital and take rue de Sèvres. Turn left, reach the cross-roads, where you will turn right onto avenue de Breteuil, one of the most elegant streets in Paris, that leads to the Invalides and was designed by Jules Hardouin-Mansart in 1680.
In front of the Invalides Dome, turn left along the Jardin de l'Intendant, opened in 1980, but according to an 18th century plan. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, author of "The Little Prince", who lived in place Vauban, would have liked it. A bust of the great aviator and writer graces the lawn.
Follow avenue de Tourville, that dates back to 1892. See the carved façades at nos. 4, 17 and 19.
You have now arrived at the corner with the École Militaire (Military School). The first building you see is a Napoleon III's addition.
The École Militaire is a splendid building designed by Jacques-Ange Gabriel, the architect of the Petit Trianon at Versailles and place de la Concorde, on the initiative of Madame de Pompadour. It was finished in 1773. Napoleon Bonaparte entered the School at 15 years of age, in 1784.
Opposite the School, stand the monument to Marshal Joffre and the poignant, controversial Peace Memorial.
Stroll across the Champ-de-Mars, until you reach the Eiffel Tower, "finishing-line" of our long walk!