Destination: Roseraie du Val-de-Marne
What’s happening: This is an unbelievably beautiful rose garden within easy reach of central Paris.
How I got there: The stupid way. Don’t go this way. Instead of entering the garden into my phone like an adult, I instead headed for the town where it’s located: L’Haÿ-les-Roses. I took the RER B to Parc de Sceaux (well worth its own field trip). From Parc de Sceaux, I had a 20-minute walk — to the center of town. From there, realizing my error, I had another 20-minute walk to the garden itself. On the way back, I went the smart way: Bus 172 to Bourg-le-Reine RER B. That, unlike the original trip, was a snap — about 40 minutes door [of bus] to door [of my apartment].
Entry fee: €3.10
Verdict: This place is awesome. The Roseraie du Val-de-Marne is a beyond-beautiful rose garden in a park with quite a lovely view north, toward Paris. (You can see the top of the Eiffel Tower, if you look.)
That the garden exists at all is thanks to Jules Gravereaux, who retired at 48 after inheriting a portion of the Bon Marché fortune. In 1894, he began a collection that grew to include all the known varieties of roses at the time — around 8,000. In doing so, he became France’s go-to guy for bizarre, rose-centric detective projects — like determining the roses in the garden of Josephine de Beauharnais (that would be Napoleon’s first wife) at the Château de Malmaison — her rose collection was once the largest in the world. Gravereaux even spent four years studying Balkans hybridization techniques to create a uniquely perfumed flower — now known as the Rose à Parfum de l’Häy. You can buy it and plant it today.
Now, there are just a fraction as many types of roses — around 2,000 — in the garden, but honestly you could have told me that each one was different and I would have believed you. It didn’t matter: All I could see were roses, all I could smell were roses — it’s just wonderful. I guess I’m one of those people who really like roses now? Who knew.
Are there snacks? There’s a café with a limited menu but a lovely view of the garden.
Should everybody go? People who like flowers should absolutely go — as long as the roses are blooming (think May/June, depending on the weather). I would not make the trek out there otherwise. It’s not Giverny but it holds its own with the Jardin des Plantes.
Trip rating: 9.5 stars / 10