After two years in Paris, I still get caught by surprise by the proximity of otherwise familiar places and street intersections. I think I know where I am, but really I don't have the bigger picture. For example, I'll be strolling around St. Sulpice and take a wrong turn. "Whoa, you mean St. Sulpice is right next door to the Jardin du Luxembourg?" It never fails to blow me away. This happens to me over and over: different pieces of the Parisian jigsaw puzzle getting pressed into place bit by bit, finally etched into spatial memory.
One street that keeps bedevilling my directionally-challenged brain, as it crosses my path in the most unexpected (to me) places, is rue d'Assas. One minute I'll be minding my own beeswax, walking or taking the bus, and next thing I know, there pops up an intersection with rue d'Assas again.
This morning I was determined to tame that rude-ass rue d'Assas perplexity. I decided to climb its entire length so I could try to understand its geography. It's not a major thoroughfare like rue de Rennes or boulevard Raspail, but its trajectory is fairly long. I embarked at the beginning, near Sevres-Babylone, and followed it to the end where it merges with avenue de l'Observatoire. Although not a path of monuments or really any tourist attractions, it does bisect an interesting swath of the 6e arrondissement. No meandering on this journey: it was a straight shot to the end. (My habitual getting-lost routine was saved for the return leg of the trek.)
First, I admired two pairs of caryatids.
It was so early that the early morning joggers were running outside the Jardin du Luxembourg, which hadn't opened its gates. I've seen lots of Guignol shows in parks in Paris, but no Marionnettes. Must return!
By the way, if you hear a French person saying he or she is studying at Assas (pronounced ah-sahss), it refers to this.
I wandered down the courtyard of the Musée Zadkine, which was not yet open. Of course, it was only 7 a.m., so I forgive them. I'll be back for a visit there post-haste. Artist and sculptor Ossip Zadkine called his atelier his "petite folie d'Assas."
The Botanical Gardens of the Université de Paris looked enticing. I'll have to find out if they're open to the public. At the far end I found what I believe to be the largest supply of fig leaves in Paris, an immense and ancient figuier. If I can fig-ure out when the fruit will be perfectly ripe, I'd love to sneak by and pluck a few from the low-hanging branches. Of course, there is little or no use for the fig leaves on statues in Paris!
When you reach the top of rue d'Assas, there is a great view across Paris. You can see past the Senate, and Montmartre on the distant hilltop.
This was the most animated face I'd seen all morning. Le Maréchal de Ney.
The Closerie des Lilas was quiet. Closed.
The Observatoire de Paris was at the top. It's open to the public only once a month, by reservation.