Paris’ closest suburbs often play second fiddle to the city’s intra-muros attractions, but you’d be wrong to ignore Boulogne-Billancourt, at the end of Métro lines 9 and 10, west of the centre. You could easily spend a day here: There’s the Bois de Boulogne for a start – Paris’s western lung, filled with lakes and parkland, perfect for a morning stroll. Then there are three excellent museums, well worth an afternoon of your time: Head to the Musée Belmondo if you’re into sculpture, the Musée des Années 30 for everything Art Déco and the Musée Albert Kahn for wonderful sculpted gardens and collections of 19th-century photography.
The spectacular, ten-acre jardin alone makes a visit to the Albert Kahn Musée & Jardins in Boulogne-Billancourt worthwhile: each section is modelled on a garden from around the world – rocky Vosgienne forest, Japanese village gardens, contemporary Japanese gardens and English and French gardens – and makes for a wonderful, lazy afternoon away from the hubbub of central Paris.
Covering 865 hectares, the Bois was once the Forêt de Rouvray hunting grounds. It was landscaped in the 1860s, when artificial grottoes and waterfalls were created around the Lac Inférieur. The Jardin de Bagatelle is famous for its roses, daffodils and water lilies, and contains an orangery that rings to the sound of Chopin in summer. The Jardin d'Acclimatation is a children's amusement park, complete with a miniature train and farm.
The Musée des Années 30 is a must for lovers of the Art Déco period, with a small but interesting collection of art and sculpture from the 1930s. Look out for modernist sculptures by the Martel brothers, graphic designs, and Juan Gris still lifes and drawings. The highlights are the designs by avant-garde architects Perret, Le Corbusier and Fischer. If your French is up to scratch sign up (with the museum) for an Art Déco themed tour.
For most people in France, the name Belmondo is associated with Nouvelle Vague actor Jean-Paul Belmodo; that sexy, thick-lipped heart-throb, with a distinguished boxer’s nose, who shot to stardom in 1960s films like Jean-Luc Godard’s A bout de Souffle (Breathless). What most of us don’t know is that the actor’s father, Paul Belmondo (1898-1982), was actually one of France’s most important 20th-century sculptors; and one of the last to use neoclassical, academic techniques.