In Clermont Ferrand, not too far from the language school where I work, there is a rather nice public garden. During the first “Summer of Covid” in 2020, when it was allowed to meet individuals outside, I sometimes had conversation lessons with my students sitting on the benches – which was really rather pleasant!
Like many other urban parks it is a popular place for office workers to meet during lunch time, and for young adults to gather after school. Of course, because the lunch is so revered in France, there are fewer people eating sandwiches on the grass than there might be in the UK, but it still gets busy.
This gateway is part of le Chateau de Bien Assis, and when I first saw it I assumed the chateau had been situated in the place that became the gardens. But no, this bit of building was dismantled from where it had been, in the north of Clermont Ferrand, and rebuilt here in 1915. The Chateau had been the home of the brother-in-law of Blaise Pascal. Blaise Pascal is a son of Clermont, an author, philosopher and all-round Good Egg, so his name is used for the University, for streets, schools…all over the city. Thus the bit of a chateau where he had stayed was worth preserving!!
The gardens started life as botanical gardens, created by an Abbot in the 1700s; in the 19th century it was remodelled as a public garden. In 1871 the city council decided to give the name of Lecoq to what had been known as the Jardin des Plantes. His bust sculpted by Chalonnax was inaugurated in 1896, facing the road where he lived.
Apparently, in the 1960s there were various animals kept in the gardens, including a seal. The seal was called Banquise, and had been given by the fishmonger nearby, who kept Banquise well nourished with fish. The seal died in 1968, but there were sealions being kept, in a sealion house, until their deaths in 1999.
Now there are no caged animùals, thank goodness. There is, on the other hand, a rather nice café/restaurant overlooking the lake – this was where the previous owner of Bonjour World (the language school) held his retirement dinner. It was a really enjoyable time – the food was good, so I imagine that when restrictions are lifted, it will be full again, particularly over the summer months.
As it’s not far from Bonjour World, it’s convenient as a nice place to walk if I want to up my mileage! But I haven’t been there for almost a year now. I look forward to going back sometime in the not too distant future.