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Six Beautiful Carousels of Paris

01/24/2013 at 10:56 am

Posted In Architecture, Paris

by kala court

I never gave much thought to carousels I passed around the city before. But they are all over the city, planted in proper strategic locations waiting to pounce on their prime targets: the children of Paris. But Paris carousels are a source of delight, both to the child and to the parents who buy carousel tickets to avoid a public meltdown. There is something amazingly zen about tying the leather safety strap around a child’s waist and watching them turn around and around.

Montmartre Carousel Untapped Paris Laura Itzkowitz

Montmartre Carousel by Laura Itzkowitz

Carousels were born from tragedy: A jousting accident killed King Henri II, Catherine de Medici’s husband, in 1559, driving knights to practise a safer alternative to these tournaments, such as spearing suspended rings with their lances. For the birth of the Dauphin, Louis XVI held a carousel festival in 1662 in front of the Tuileries. In true Sun King fashion, it was all pomp and fanfare: 15,000 guests watched knights on their horses participate in jeu de bagues competitions. The celebration which took three months to organise lasted only three days, but the Sun King did himself proud because the memory of this grandiose fête still lives on: the location where it was held is known today as Place du Carrousel.

There are plenty of carousels around the city, so here are six noteworthy carousels of Paris to get you started:

Jardin du Luxembourg
Métro: line 4 (Odéon), RER B: Luxembourg
The green-roofed carousel in the Jardin du Luxembourg is small and discreet, nothing fancy like the double-decker carousels we find at Hotel de Ville or Esplanade de La Defense. It’s also the oldest one in Paris, dating back to 1879, and the beat-up, weather-worn animals that millions of children have ridden over centuries were actually sketched by Charles Garnier, architect of the Opera house in Paris.

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Carousel at the Jardin de Luxembourg, the oldest carousel in Paris

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Jeu de bagues at the Jardin de Luxembourg carousel, where children spear iron rings into sticks

Part of the charm of this particular carousel is its jeu de bagues (ring game). Children sitting on the outermost circle of horses are given a stick and attempt to spear the most number of tin rings, replaced at lightning speed by a park employee after each ring has been caught. It takes some skill to load rings into that old wooden shank as quickly as the man did. A skill acquired over time, I suppose.

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Carousel horses at Jardin du Luxembourg

Forum Les Halles
Métro: line 1 (Les Halles), RER A: Chatelet-LesHalles
Forum les Halles’ carousel dates back to 1900, its horses hand-carved by the Limonaire brothers, known for building fairground organs decorated with Art Nouveau designs in the 19th to the early 20th century.

Carousel Forum les Halles: Photo Credit: waymarking.com

Carousel Forum les Halles: Photo Credit: waymarking.com

Bois de Vincennes and Jardin de Ranelagh
Bois de Vincennes: Metro: line 1 (Chateau de Vincennes), Jardin de Ranelagh: Metro: line 9 (La Muette)
Gustave Bayol, a sculptor who later focused on merry-go-rounds, became France’s well-known carousel carver – he created the animals that make their eternal rounds in the carousels of Bois de Vincennes (lots of carved little pigs for this particular carousel) and Jardin de Ranelagh.

 

Carousel of Jardin du Ranelagh. Photo Credit: http://paris1900.leartnouveau.com

Carousel of Jardin du Ranelagh. Photo Credit: http://paris1900.leartnouveau.com

Musée des Arts Forains
Metro: line 14 (Cour Saint Emilion)
Musée des Arts Forains is the place to head to for anything carnival-related, but the carousels here in particular are a joy to look at. There are fourteen antique carousels here, my favourite one being the Velocipéde, a bicycle merry-go-round that needs audience participation: you have to pedal to get the entire thing going.

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One of the fourteen carousels at the Musée des Arts Forains

Jardin des Plantes
Metro: line 5 (Austerlitz), line 7 (Censier Daubenton)
There’s the Dodo Manège at the Jardin des Plantes, which is relatively young (1992) but adopts a 1930s style and an interesting theme to boot – children can ride on extinct animals, or those on the verge of extinction. Where else can you ride dodo birds, Tasmanian devils, or triceratops?

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The famous Dodo Manège of Jardin des Plantes, featuring extinct or soon-to-be extinct animals

Square des Batignolles
Metro: line 13 (Brochant)
At Square des Batignolles in the 17th arrondissement is a carousel of Disney characters created by Henri Devos. The former glove maker from Belgium was heavily influenced by 20th century pop culture, which explains the 1920’s Mickey Mouse and Pluto characters. He was also Bayol’s successor.

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We look closely at carousels now, always in awe. They are no longer useless rides that empty my pockets of loose change, but beautiful pieces of art. People who can say money can’t buy happiness are wrong, because it can be bought, in Paris at least : 2,50€ for a three minute ride on a wooden horse.

5 Comments

  1. William Kolb says:

    You mean Louis XIV, not Louis XVI, his great grandson.

  2. ELLIE says:

    I went on a trip to see carousels after 9-11–Had a wonderful time–Germany, Belgium, France and the amusement park in the Netherlands. A must go to Musée des Arts Forains. I wish i were going with you. ELLIE Haggerty

  3. Delilah Kennedy says:

    Thank you for this beautiful post! I am going to Paris in a few months and hope to ride on some of the carousels you have described! I will be travelling alone and know that I will appear to be an odd old woman on a carousel horse; however, since childhood, carousels have fascinated me….

    I never had a family of my own with whom I could share my love of them, therefore, I love them from my own childhood. I would wave as a frightened child when I was very young and I would wave with excitement as I grew older; I never tired of waving.

    As carousels diminish in our world, I am delighted to know that Paris offers a bit of a lasting bastion, a taste of the “used to be”, in a world that no longer understands the glory of riding carousels…just because.

    • Estelle Fromm says:

      Delilah,

      I am so happy that you will be going to Paris, France and will have the opportunity to ride one of the many carousels that are still in existence. That is SO exciting to me! When you are in Paris, there is a lovely carousel located quite close to the Eiffel Tower. The carousel is called, Le Carrousel De La Tour Eiffel”. I highly recommend you go on that carousel. I wish you a wonderful time in Paris, France as you ride the carousels.

      A person who rides carousels, will always be “young in spirit”. Delilah, I wish you a fantastic time in Paris, France. Have a safe and wonderful journey.

  4. Estelle Fromm says:

    Carousels are magical to me! No matter how old I get, I will never feel, “too old” to ride a carousel. I have felt this way most of my life, and now I am 48 years old.

    I enjoy watching the wooden horses go round-and-round, while cheerful music is played in the background. If I am fortunate enough to ride the carousel, I absolutely will.. While riding a carousel, I enjoy hearing the laughter of people, and the old-fashioned music. People who go on a carousel are HAPPY! They enjoy the ride, and nostalgia of the carousel.

    When I see a carousel, I often look for the most beautiful wooden horse. The most beautiful horse, is the one, I choose to ride. while riding the carousel, I feel like a princess, from a time long ago.

    As the ride comes to an end, I often hear my husband, in the distance say, “Estelle, …….. the ride is over, lets go”. I respond, “ok”. As I get off the wooden horse, I begin to daydream about the next time, that I will have the opportunity to ride another carousel.

    I believe, the magical feeling of riding a carousel, will stay with me as the years continue to pass. Even when I am an old lady, I believe I will still look forward to going on a carousel!

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