Jun 052012

Paris: Scarfs, Berets and Unforgettable Gardens

Paris is not only known around the world as the city of lights, glamour, and romance. It is home to countless fashion trends in terms of accessories for both men and woman as well as more than 400 formal parks/gardens some dating back to the 17th century. It is a city that the whole world can take pride in.

Did you know Ancient Rome is one of the first origins of the scarf, where it was used to keep clean and called the sudarium or  “sweat cloth.”By the 20th century scarves became one of the most essential and versatile accessories. Printed scarves are now available internationally through high fashion design houses such as Burberry, Missoni, Etro, Lanvin, Hermès, Ferragamo, Dior, and Prada. And it is around this time that people started to name various stylized knots.

For instance, the Parisian Knot is perhaps the most popular way to tying a scarf around your neck. Fold the scarf over lengthwise; drape it around your neck; insert the loose ends through the loop hanging in front of you and pull them through. If too long, double it lengthwise first. Worn over a pullover or at bedtime, a scarf acts as an outer garment to protect you from winter’s chill. An old French tradition believed that wearing a scarf to bed would cure a cough or cold.

Another common method of knotting a scarf is called Once-Around Knot. This technique provides added protection against the cold without completely engulfing their necks in folds of fabric. The once-around knot requires you to position the scarf around the neck so that one side is longer than the other. The other side of the scarf is then loosely wrapped around his neck to allow room for your necktie or jewelry to be seen underneath. This knot provides a double layer of warmth around the neck and allows both ends of the scarf to drape over the chest. For more information on how to tie a scarf for men and women.

During a recent trip to Paris, I was on a mission to find an authentic Beret de Basque. I did not know when setting out on this journey that it would start at one end of Paris and end in one of the cities suburbs after three full days. But I did it.

Finding a Basque style beret was important to me because of its rich history and unmatched style. The vrai Basque beret, as it is known, was a traditional headgear of Basque shepherds in the Pyrenees, a mountain range that divides southern France from northern Spain. The commercial production of this beret began in the 17th century in the Oloron-Sainte-Marie area of southern France. Originally a local craft, beret-making became industrialized in the nineteenth century. Many of berets that can be found in retail stores across the world today have evolved into different sorts.

The beret compliments the bourgeois-bohème look which has always been associated with Parisian lifestyle. And at one point it was used as way of identifying your political association; the larger the diameter would cause the beret to slant over your head. This was a sign of more liberal persuasion.

Did you know that knotted scarves and berets are the most essential Parisian accessory? And there is perhaps no better place to witness their stylishness than while touring one of several hundred public parks/gardens around Paris. This fact should come as no surprise when you consider the government’s annual budget of 2.5 million Euros (approximately $3,073,900 US) to maintain all the public parks around the city. Here’s a list of my personal favorites:


Prior to the French Revolution only members of the royal court would be allowed access to this park, which is the second largest public park situated in Paris. It is also the known as the playground for the French senate because they maintain their offices in the bordering Luxembourg Palace. This is probably the most popular park in Paris. Adorned with statues, it features a romantic fountain, the Fontaine de Médicis. Métro: Odeon or Cluny La Sorbonne (Lines 4, 10). Bus: Lines 27, 38, 82, 83, 85, 89.


It is here that you will find the world famous “The Thinker,” “The Kiss,” and “The Gate to Hell” sculptures among more than 6,000 others on permanent display and surrounded by a strolling green lawn and trees. It is here that I met former First Lady Hillary Clinton while performing with a Gospel choir made up of a few friends who were living in Paris during the same time as me. YOLO right? Métro: Varenne or Invalides (line 13). Bus : Lines 69, 82, 87, 92.


This is an elevated garden park in the northeast section of the city. It is a favorite among romantics. There is even a 30-foot tall waterfall. But the main attraction is the Belvedere (Temple) of Sybil resting at the edge of an island in the center of the lake. In September, this park hosts the annual Silhouette short film festival. Métro: Buttes-Chaumont or Botzaris (Line 7 bis).


One the most famous romantic parks, it is best known are a rotunda at the edge of the park, a small pyramid and a picturesque Corinthian colonnade. This wonderful garden and park has been the inspiration for numerous painters. Built in 1778 by an amateur landscape designer, Louis Carmontelle, for Philippe Egalité who was the cousin of Louis XVI and the father of King Louis-Philippe I. The designer himself used Rousseau’s words in explaining his concept “to bring together all ages and all parts of the world in a single place. Métro: Monceau.


This was once a clay quarry between the Louvre and Place de la Concorde which first became a garden in 1664.  It is now one of Paris’s most popular gardens with a large pool and statues.  It epitomizes Parisian style. This intricate landscaping is the oldest public garden, situated between the Louvre Museum and the Place de la Concorde. And was a favorite hangout for my classmates and I because the café would offer the most generous pichet of wine at a discount. It is also the places where I started my regular walk along the Seine, crossing each bridge that I came to while singing my favorite song.  YOLO right? Métro: Tuileries (Line 1). Bus: Lines 42, 68, 72, 73, 84, 94.


This very beautiful garden park is hopping with urban culture and sport, ranging from jazz concerts to zip lining. It’s design fancies a liberal interpretation of a Japanese style garden. Métro: Château de Vincennes. Bus: Lines 46, 112.


This garden is the on the grounds of the Museum of Natural History. This is the oldest garden in Paris and it was created in 1626 as a royal botanical garden to cultivate herbs for medical purposes. It is still the country’s prime botanical garden and is even home to a botany school. The ancient labyrinth makes exploring this garden especially stimulating. Metro: Gare d’Austerlitz (Lines 5, 10). RER: Gare d’Austerlitz (Line C). Bus: Lines 24, 57, 61, 63, 67, 91.


An enormous park at the western edge of Paris, this was commissioned by Napoleon III in 1852 who wanted to create the equivalent of London’s Hyde Park. French nobility once used this park as their hunting grounds. It has also provided inspiration to several great painters like Van Gogh and Monet. The almost lyrical expanse of greenery and calm makes this a superb place for cycling too.  Métro: Porte Maillot, Les Sablons, Porte Dauphine, Porte d’Auteil (Lines 1, 2, 10).
RER: Porte Maillot (Line C).


This is a large park created in 1860 at the eastern edge of Paris. It boasts of a large castle – the Château de Vincennes (dates back to the 14th century) – and a beautiful park, the Parc Floral. The man-made Daumesnil Lake at the wood’s west end features two islands and makes this the perfect place to take out a boat and picnic. Métro: Chateau de Vincennes, Porte Doree, Porte de Charenton (Lines 1, 8, 12). Bus: Lines 46, 56.
Built in 1994 on top of the Montparnasse railway station. This garden features a playground, sports facilities and thematic gardens.  One of its themes is that of a ship; the lamposts resemble the masts of sailing ships, and there are two elevated walkways on either side of the garden which resemble the bridges of ships. Métro: Gaîté.


This borders the famous Champs-Elysées avenue. Was created in the 17th century but remodeled in the 19th century as an English garden with fountains, flowerbeds and several pavilions.
This garden was originally the site of the Ranelagh Dance-hall which opened in 1774. It has a merry-go-round and several other attractions for children. Métro: La Muette (Line 9).


This houses Paris’s largest fountain, the Trocadéro Fountain. The fountain is surrounded by modernist sculptures, mostly in stone.


Citroën opened in 1992. This is near the Seine and offers a great variety of things from modern water sculptures, dense bushes and pretty garden area. Métro: Balard.


This garden opened in 1994 near the Bercy Stadium, which is where I first saw Whitney Houston perform live in Europe. This park has three gardens. One of which is called the ‘romantic garden.’  Métro:  Bercy.


This is popular science museum. Its IMAX theatre is housed in the Géode, which is an enormous eye-catching sphere. The park has ten thematic gardens and a playground with a large slide in the shape of a dragon. The Prairies are a vast open space perfect for sport and games. The open-air cinema is guaranteed to provide a memorable experience. Métro:  Porte de la Villette or Porte de Pantin (Lines 7, 5).


This was created in 1975 at the site of an old abattoir. The central tower in the park was the bell tower of the market hall. There is a special place for the blind which has Braille signage.  Métro: Convention

[photo gallery under construction]