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Paris The Right Bank - Le Parc des Buttes-Chaumont

Le Parc des Buttes-Chaumont will be immediately recognisable to fans of the legendary TV sitcom Friends, as the colourful 1885 poster of the park’s attractions by artist Jules Cheret stood in pride of place in Rachel and Monica’s apartment for most of the show’s 236 episodes. As luck would have it, Paris’s 5th largest park is the ideal place to go with your friends, with its undulating hill walks and dramatic features a perfect setting while discussing the ups and downs of life and relationships (and are not long afternoons of conversation, year in year out, the ultimate litmus test of any true friendship?). Originally the site of a large quarry outside the city limits that provided the distinctive pierre de taille stone of Haussmannian buildings (the root of the park’s name derives from the words buttes chauve-mont or “bald” (i.e. barren) hills) and the remnants of the quarry peak provide a spectacular setting for the Temple de la Sibylle belvedere fashioned after the Temple of Vista in Tivoli, 20 miles east of Rome. One of Napoléon III’s many projects, the Buttes Chaumont was opened in 1867 with special features including an artificial grotto and cascade carved out of the old quarry walls as well as the picturesque passerelle suspendue designed by none other than the city’s engineer emeritus Gustave Eiffel. For refreshment after your walk, look no further than Rosa Bonheur, a re-imagined Guingette from days gone by, celebrating music, dancing, tapas and most importantly: du bonheur! Named after the convention-defying 19th century artist, the music hall here is one of four Rosa Bonheur venues around the city, and open from Thursday through Sunday until midnight (two of the other Guingettes are on barges beside the Pont Alexandre III and in Asnières, with a fourth on an island in the Bois de Vincennes). Derived from guinget, an affordable locally-produced green hooch, Guingettes were famously captured on canvas by Renoir and Van Gogh. The old-school “knees-up Sally” drinking and dancing joints were spread around the Paris suburbs and typically situated beside the water where good times were had, jokes were told, and where the trysts and turns of love were cemented and sometimes cracked and plastered back together again: exactly the sort of place you might have spied a 19th century version of Ross and Monica in stripy t-shirts, boater hats, but instead of coffee cups, holding cigarillos and goblets of wine.

Les Buttes-Chaumont; Rosa Bonheur, 1 rue Botzaris, 75019. Tel: 01 71 60 29 01.

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