Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Belvedere de Buffon


Every time I find myself in Paris, I take some time to go visit the Jardin des Plantes (Botanical Garden) near the Austerlitz train station.
Founded in 1626, it has first been used as a medicinal herb garden and later was opened to the public in 1640. Today the garden covers 28 hectares and hosts four museums: The Grand Gallery of Evolution, the Mineralogy Museum, the Paleontology Museum and the Entomology Museum.

In the south corner of the garden is a small "maze" (it's actually a spiral to the top) around a 20 meter high hill with a beautiful belvedere crowning the top. The small hill was actually a huge pile of garbage. Instead of removing the pile, it was turned into a tiny hill for the public to enjoy a higher view of the garden.

The elegant belvedere is the work of the architect Edme Verniquet, made for Comte de Buffon. It is a mixture of Chinese and western architecture and is topped by a sundial. The words "Horas non numero nisi serenas" are inscribed around the higher part of the structure. It means in Latin: "I do no count the hours, except the calm ones". The word serenas, meaning calm represents the weather, more precisely the sunny weather.
Every day, a bell used to ring announcing noon only when the weather was clear. The mechanism was invented by Mr. Mille and consisted of a counterweight balancing a hammer striking a bell. A string held the counterweight in place until the sun was up high. At noon, thanks to a magnifying glass cleverly positioned, the string burned and released the weight. Every day, it was replaced with a new one for the next day.

Although the view is not what it used to be (new buildings), the belvedere is still a beautiful place to sit and relax away from the busy streets of Paris, or just hang out with your loved one in a nice romantic setting.

Have you ever visited this part of Paris?

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