The parc de la Pépinière is adjacent to the Place Stanislas, which can be reached through the golden arches of the fountain of Amphitrite. Covering 21 hectares, the park is located in the centre of Nancy. It is often described as being the lungs of the city, whose locals affectuously call it “la Pep”. Each time I visit Nancy I make sure to having a relaxing stroll in the Pépinière Park. You’ll find me at the rose garden or near the waffle stand!
Historic Overview of the parc de la Pépinière
The parc de la Pépinière (Pépinière Park) was commissionned by Stanislas in 1765 as royal nurseries which were created along the city’s ramparts, in an attempt to link the Old Town to the New Town of Nancy.
Pépinière is French for nursery. The park was originally created to raise trees to be planted along the main roads in Lorraine.
In 1835, the Pépinière park was bought by the City of Nancy which decided to open it to the public. Later on, an English garden was set up in 1877 with winding paths. The rest of the Park is layed out on the initial squares of the royal nursery, where alleys cross at right angles. The stroller can discover the rose garden, the animal enclosure, and playgrounds for children. Some sculptures are spread out across the park, including that of Claude Le Lorrain, from Rodin.
The Mozart bandstand
In the parc de la Pépinière, make sure you walk through the beautiful bandstand (kiosque à musique), dating from 1875. This circular structure, set in the English garden part of the Pépinière, was designed to accomodate musical bands performing outdoor concerts. It is still – but occasionnally – in use today. The bandstand singularly recalls some of the features of Place Stanislas’ railings, with its gold leaves and served as a model for other French towns’ bandstands.
The parc de la Pépinière today
Today, the Pépinière has become the perfect spot for joggers, dreamers, and lovers of nature. It includes an animal enclosure: the little farm of the Pépinière. People who have been living in Nancy for decades remember the time when it used to be home to bears, lions, monkeys and Australian kangaroos. Children loved giving dry bread to the deers and throwing peanuts to the bears. Exotic animals are no longer kept in the Pépinière, however many peacocks, ducks, white storks, swans, as well as donkeys and goats still wander around the park, and if you are lucky enough, you might see the male peacocks strutting their tails to impress their female counterparts!
Fortunately the children rides I enjoyed when I was a kid are still there.
Another nostalgic moment is to buy a warm waffle from one of the stands in the park, and to sit down on one of the benches in the English garden, watching the world go by.
According to a report from Nancy’s Tourist Board, there are more than 22,000 trees and 125 floral-displays throughout the town, enhanced by a further 1,525 urns and jardinières.
Like any other European city, summer floral displays are an essential part of the council’s policy for promoting tourism. There are more than 185,000 plants and flowers displayed in autumn and spring, with about 330,000 plants in summer.
The rose garden
The rose garden covers 2000 m2 and was created in 1927 on the former site of the municipal greenhouses. You will discover 197 different varieties and 2000 rose bushes.
Three decorative elements ornate the garden:
- The Custines gate. It dates back to the 18th century and was transferred from the town of Custines to Nancy in the inter-war period.
- The statue of the pied piper. Designed by Lavigne in 1879, it marks the central axis of the rose garden.
- The water fountain. It symbolises two hands carrying the world. The fountain was given in 2005 as a gift by the German city of Karlshuhe at the occasion of the 50th twinning anniversary between the two cities.
The Pépinière in Winter
Although the Parc de la Pépinière is a lovely place to explore from Spring to Autumn, don’t miss it if you are visiting Nancy in Winter. Especially early in the day just as fresh-fallen snow glistens in the morning sunlight.
Jojo the chimpanzee was a local icon, the star of “la Pep”.
He saw generations of Nancy dwellers growing up, and was at the centre of a multitude of souvenirs filled with emotion. Jojo was Nancy’s most famous monkey that parents showed to their kids, then to their grand-children, and so on…
He had become such a legend that rumours about him had started to arise in the talks on the city: is it still “him”? Is he still alive? Some believe some kind of conspiracy: “He has secretly been replaced by an identical monkey”…
So what’s the story? Jojo died at the grand age of 60, and was Europe’s oldest monkey living in captivity. Born in 1951 in Centrafrica, he was given along with Catherine, a female chimpanzee, by an MP to the city of Nancy in 1963. However, his spouse did not live long with the Lorraine climate. In 1984, after a long widowhood, Jojo was at last given another companion, Judith, who became a specialist at throwing excrement at the visitors. This other phenomenon accidentally died in 2003.
Since the 1960s, Jojo the monkey had become famous because of his interaction with the visitors. Not all of them had good intentions towards him… as some taught him naughty tricks! Some people used to hand to him lit cigarettes that he would smoke nonchalently, in front of the amused visitors. He would drink water and then spit it out onto the crowd assembled behind his bars. The children found this very exciting and would scream.
On other occasions, he would come nearer to the crowd, turn around and with great pride show his behind to the world.
Towards the end of his life, Jojo was still in good health (thanks to a careful diet based on bifidus yoghurt!) and kept acting like a playful child, with his own particular loud mouth.
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Access to the public park is free.
- from 1st November to 31st March: everyday from 6.30am to 8pm
- from 1st April to 31st May and from 1st September to 31st October: everyday from 6.30am to 9pm
- from 1st June to 31st August: everyday from 6.30am to 10.30pm
Check out the website of the Tourist Information Centre for more info about Nancy.