Since we had just eaten at the Grande Cascade restaurant, we decided to walk around and visit its namesake, the actual Grande Cascade created by Baron Haussmann in 1852. Napoleon III was personally involved in planning the new parks. “We must have a stream here, as in Hyde Park,” he observed while driving through the Bois, “to give life to this arid promenade”. The first plan for the Bois de Boulogne was drawn up by the architect Jacques Hittorff, and the landscape architect Louis-Sulpice Varé. Their plan called for long straight alleys in patterns crisscrossing the park, and, as the Emperor had asked, lakes and a long stream similar to the Serpentine in Hyde Park. Unfortunately, Varé failed to take into account the difference in elevation between the beginning of the stream and the end. If his plan had been followed, the upper part of the stream would have been empty, and the lower portion flooded. When Haussmann saw the partially finished stream, he saw the problem immediately, dismissed Varé and Hittorff and designed the solution himself. An upper lake and a lower lake, divided by an elevated road, which serves as a dam; and a cascade which allows the water to flow between the lakes. This is the design still seen today.
The area was not always this green and beautiful. Following the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1814, 40,000 soldiers of the British and Russian armies had their encampment in the forest. Thousands of trees were cut down to build shelters and for firewood. From 1815 until the first French Republic, the Bois was largely empty, an assortment of bleak ruined meadows and tree stumps where the British and Russians had camped and dismal stagnant ponds. In 1853 Haussmann hired an experienced engineer from the corps of Bridges and Highways, Jean-Charles Alphand, whom he had worked with in his previous assignment in Bordeaux, and made him the head of a new Service of Promenades and Plantations, in charge of all the parks in Paris, in particular Bois de Bologne. He went on to completely remake the park.
Above the waterfall is this beautiful lake, Etang de Reservoir, ringed with lush vegetation and full of ducks and birds. This reservoir holds the water that eventually feeds the whole Bois de Bologne.
Surrounding the lake are a patchwork of trails leading into the forest. The variety of plants is what to me is so beautiful. Different colors of leaves, different groundcover and of course the sweetness of the air.
An good example is this Cedar of Lebanon, planted in 1862, with a height of 30 meters and a trunk circumference of 4.6 meters or 15 feet.
This time of year, in summer, you have to look a little harder to find flowers and color but they are there if you just poke around a little. Herb Robert is a tiny flower and is a particular favorite of mine as it is a shade-loving plant, found commonly in hedgerows and woods. Its very small pink flower has 5 petals and its stems are red. They had a big patch of purple phlox which was very pretty in addition to a sweet smelling hedge of white lilacs. We left for home after wandering around for a couple of hours, it was very relaxing. If you want to visit, it is only about a ten minute cab ride from the Trocadéro.