Going in Circles: The Carousels of France

We passed one on our first morning in Paris.  We were walking down the Rue de Rivoli, and there it was in the Place de l’Hôtel-de-Ville, a lovely double-decker merry-go-round with old fashioned horses and carriages.  I was confused, because I was on the lookout for the Apple Store, one branch of which was in the Carrousel du Louvre near the inverted pyramid.  The carousel we saw was definitely not an underground shopping center, and it turned out that the shopping center had nothing to do with carousels.  (I hadn’t noticed the difference in the spelling; I was in another country, after all, where they spelled in a different language.)

But wait, there’s more.  Paris is full of carousels.  We saw one near the Eiffel Tower, one in the Jardin du Luxembourg, and one near the St. Paul Metro station.  And when we left Paris for a short trip through Normandy and Brittany, we saw carousels in Saint-Malo and in Honfleur.  Most of them were not limited to horses but included lions and tigers and elephants and chickens and cars and planes.  I loved all of them.

When I was a child, my mother would occasionally take me to Acushnet Park near Fort Rodman in New Bedford.  The park is long gone, and it never was serious competition for Lincoln Park, whose carousel had an impressive collection of horses and carriages.  Lincoln Park is, alas, also gone.  I was very young when Acushnet Park disappeared from my life, but I still remember the carousel, which was not limited to horses but included geese and rabbits and other animals.  I was particularly fond of the rabbits. 

On the carousel in the Jardin du Luxembourg, the children riding the outside circle of horses are given sticks that they use to attempt to spear metal rings from some sort of ring dispenser.  I remember once riding a carousel in Oak Bluffs that featured a ring dispensing machine, but I don’t remember being given a stick.  We had to reach out and grab the rings with our fingers, and I think there was a knob on the horse’s neck to hold the collected rings.  I wasn’t fast enough to grab more than one each time around, but the Oak Bluffs kids would grab two or three at once.  Anyone who got the “gold” ring would win a prize.  It was fun, but I really wanted to ride a rabbit.

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