It’s exactly two years since we spent a long weekend with our family in Paris, walking the streets, enjoying early morning crepes, visiting galleries and generally soaking up the atmosphere. I’d decided in advance though that we must visit the the city’s Belvedere, built just after the 1867 Great Exhibition in Paris.
After a few enquiries we got some positive directions. It was in the North East of the City in the 19th arrondissement and easily accessible by the metro and a short walk. It was located we discovered as the centre and crowning point of Le Parc de Buttes Chaumont, a jewel of a place with a lake, cliffs, gardens, grassy slopes and people enjoying the sun and feeding the birds. It could be paradise!
Imagine then our surprise to read this last week that the network of jihadists responsible for the horrific killings of journalists at Charlie Hebdo and of police and shoppers at a Jewish supermarket trained here in this beautiful spot and now were being described as the Buttes-Chaumont cell (Financial Times Weekend, 10 January 2015).
For the record the Belvedere, curiously described in the Guardian (13 January 2015) as a ‘faux Roman temple’, was erected in 1869, exactly the same year as New York’s Belvedere was built in Central Park. Some cultural rivalry is surely evident here!
The site of the park was originally a quarry opened up for the construction of the 1867 Exhibition (See engraving of the original site) and the Belvedere stands in a central position on the rock, high above the surrounding lake. From its lofty position it has a magnificent view towards the centre of Paris, with the Sacre Coeur evident in the distance (See picture below)