One of the most endearing features of Rennes, to my mind, is its parks. The most well-known and visited, the Parc du Thabor, until the French Revolution the domain of monks, has been ranked in design with the beloved Luxembourg Gardens in Paris. It has become my favorite destination in the city. The main entrance to its six hectares (about 15 acres), through an ornate gilded iron gate, is adjacent to the church of Notre Dame de la Melaine, which rings its Sunday bells for a half hour at a time creating an other-worldly ambiance in which to enter. I’ve never been the park when it has been crowded but it’s never empty either. There are always a few runners, tourists, families and couples enjoying its many delights.
Within the park, my favorite spot is the wooden structure encompassing the dovecote and aviary (the colombier and volière).
There are benches placed around it, at enough of a distance for the birds to be somewhat unawares of your presence. But up close, a studious onlooker might chuckle at the pecking orders being rigorously maintained, the parakeets who steal rides on the tail feathers of the pheasant (who tries to shake them off), the Diamond Mandarin couples sneaking a twig from the doves or the darting in and out of niches by the birds.
Below: Diamond Dove, Parakeet, Diamond Mandarin, Pigeon, Doves and mystery bird.
After spending a good hour or so there, it’s on to the various gardens within the garden: the rose, the French, the English, the Botanical. Or the teeny waterfall. There’s even a spot called L’Enfer, or Hell, today a space for outdoor concerts but once a reservoir despised by the local Bishop who gave it its name. Or to admire the Kiosque.
There are other, less well-known parks, like the Parc Oberthür, which is smaller (three hectares) but no less lovely. Although a public botanical park, it seems private, with more shady nooks and passages, an imposing villa that once did serve as the Oberthür family home, and more solitary spaces (at least in my experience). It claims 375 trees of a variety of species and geographies, many of which are quite old.
The Breton climate is ideal for nurturing gardens, and every place we’ve been boasts a lovely, well-maintained big or small public patch of green. We’ve seen a lot of Botanical Gardens in Europe that are not cared for, and gone to ruin. Kudos to Brittany for tending to theirs so beautifully.
It would be great to see these places once, can’t imagine having them to live with on a daily basis. In Ann Arbor we have many nice parks, but there is always a lot of fuss and bother about whether they will attract the homeless.
That’s true everywhere now in the US, and in many city parks in Europe. For some reason these parks haven’t suffered that fate. Perhaps because they are closed with high gates at night.
And they have caretakers who are there every day, not just once a month or less.
If i could i’d be where you are now – i adore gardens and Luxembourg Garden my favorite place and sanctuary in paris!. I was 3 months in Ireland after living in London 1 1/2 years and so used to their numerous parks. When I returned to nyc it was Central Park and guys following us, we didn’t feel safe so we left. I have always wished that nyc had split up into numerous parks instead of one huge one so we could have many respites and beauty along our daily way – and they’d be safe.
I love gardens too. I don’t think I’d have any hesitation in moving to Nantes if we could get a lovely place overlooking that city’s Jardin des Plantes. I also liked the Jardin des Plantes in Paris.
Kathleen, I found a little mistake.
You identify these birds as Diamond Dove, Parakeet, Dimond Mandarin, Pigeon, Doves and mystery bird, but the photos clearly state what they are: something called “Olympus Digital Camera.”
Must be a French species.
I could not get rid of that! I hate technology.
Perhaps cities should be evaluated, at least in part, on the quality of their parks? In this regard, would you say that Rennes outshines Nice? As ever, your photos are captivating.
Yes, the parks in Brittany far outshine the public parks in Nice, Antibes, Menton. Thanks, Ian.
Oh how I wish I was at the park with you! Jack and I are headed to Laurelhurst Park today to do some drawing and, for now, that will need to suffice. Who is your new friend on the bench? Love the beautiful photos!
Thanks! That’s some random guy enjoying a quiet and solitary spot in the park.
I lived in Rennes 43 years ago as a part of School Year Abroad. Don’t be surprised if you see some American teenagers come to town the third week of September. Love your perspective on the city. I learned some new things!
Jane, it must have been so, so different then. I remember France and Italy from the 1970s and it was a different world.