According to legend in 1880 Napoleon III gave his wife the Empress Eugenie, this authentic Swiss chalet, which he had fully dismantled and reinstalled in the same way on an island in the Bois de Boulogne. At one time it was the location of a literary cafe frequented by Proust and Zola. The chalet has been burned and restored many times; the latest restoration took place in 2001 when the chalet was refurbished in French colonial style. It is located in the Bois de Bologne, on the largest lake in the park, Lac Inferieur. You get to the restaurant on a cute little boat that crosses the water.
We went for lunch on a sunny, beautiful day of which there have not been that many lately in Paris. The Bois de Bologne was landscaped by Jean-Charles Alphand starting in 1853 and took over five years to complete. As a result of Louis Napoléon's exile in London and his memories of Hyde Park, all the new roads and paths were curved and meandering. The planting of the park was the task of the new chief gardener and landscape architect of the Service of Promenades and Plantations, Jean-Pierre Barillet-Deschamps, who had also worked with Haussmann and Alphand in Bordeaux. His gardeners planted 420,000 trees, including hornbeam, beech, linden, cedar, chestnut and elm trees and hardy exotic species, like redwoods. They planted 270 hectares of lawns, with 150 kilograms of seed per hectare, and thousands of flowers. To make the forest more natural, they brought fifty deer to live in and around the Pré-Catelan.
In 1855 Gabriel Davioud, a graduate of Ecole des Beaux-Arts, was named the chief architect of the new Service of Promenades and Plantations. He was commissioned to design twenty-four pavilions and chalets, plus cafes, gatehouses, boating docks and kiosks. He designed the gatehouses where the guardians of the park lived to look like rustic cottages. It was he who had a real Swiss chalet built out of wood in Switzerland and transported to Paris, where it is was reassembled on an island in the lake and became a restaurant.
When you get to the restaurant, you find that they have a number of terraces, all enclosed by forest and of course the lake view.
The indoors is charming, a little reminiscent of a country cabin.
For lunch we both had the lamb with ratatouille. It was perfectly prepared and delicious. The roasted artichoke was a nice additional touch.
For desert I had the trio of crémes and Lisa had fresh berries. The food was very good and the service was prompt and good. After lunch we were stuffed so we took a little walk around the island.
The forest was beautiful and full of diverse trees and plants. There were a lot of birds and ducks, including the mother shown above with her babies. Boats are available for rent and there were many boats with people lazily rowing and enjoying the day. The paths just wandered through ever more beautiful stages. Even though it looks very natural, periodic meadows and the splashes of color show this is a curated forest.
The building of the park was an enormous engineering project which lasted for five years. The upper and lower lakes were dug and the earth piled into islands and hills. Rocks were brought from Fontainbleau and combined with cement to make the cascade and an artificial grotto. The pumps from the Seine could not provide enough water to fill the lakes and irrigate the park, so a new channel was created to bring the water of the Ourcq River from Monceau to the upper lake in the Blois, but this was not enough. An artesian well 586 meters deep was eventually dug in the plain of Passy which could produce twenty thousand cubic meters of water a day. This well went into service in 1861. The water then had to be distributed around the park to water the lawns and gardens; the traditional system of horse-drawn wagons with large barrels of water would not be enough. A system of sixty-six kilometers of pipes was laid, with a faucet every thirty or forty meters, a total of sixteen hundred faucets.
Pictures alone are insufficient to describe the air, which seemed better than I have breathed for some years and the peaceful feelings you have just being here. The area is very popular with joggers, and boats can be rented on the lower lake from February 15 to the end of October. After its completion, the Bois de Boulogne became a popular meeting place and promenade route for Parisians of all classes. The alleys were filled with carriages, coaches, horseback riders, and later with men and women on bicycles, and then with automobiles. The woods and lawns were filled with families having picnics, Parisians rowed boats on the lake, while the cafes entertained the upper classes. During the winter, when the lakes were frozen, they were crowded with ice skaters. The Bois de Boulogne was officially annexed by the city of Paris in 1929 and incorporated into the 16th arrondissement. Soon after World War II, the park began to come back to life. The same themes can be seen today. If you visit Paris, take a cab to Le Chalet des Isles and walk around a little, you will be glad you did. I included the stats from TripAdvisor, most of the reviews were predictably good. The restaurant was packed the day we visited, I have no idea why anyone would not like this restaurant.
Official Website: http://chalet-des-iles.com/