on August 10, 2011
There are two experiences in my life through which I have come in extremely close contact to a wondrous aspect of nature. The first came just outside the Chinese city of Chengdu, where I was able to visit China's Panda Research station and see Panda's in their (almost) natural habitat. The second was just outside the coastal city of Sur in OmanN where I was able to see giant sea turtles laying their eggs. It is toss-up as to which if these I enjoyed the most. Parc Phoenix - the nature park close to Nice's International Airport - obviously could not compete with either of those. However, it was tremendously interesting and made me feel just a little bit closer to nature.There are so many fantastic sights at Parc Phoenix that, if I included all of them, it would turn this article into little more than a rather long list of exotic plants and animals. So, I will pick out a few of my favorites and describe them at a little more length. The first thing to grab me was the waterfall bridge, which is not strictly a bridge and not really a waterfall in the way might think of Niagara or Victoria Falls, but is very pleasant. It is a collection of large stones that sit in the path of a small stream, which empties into the lake at the centre of the park. There are traditional bridges that cross the stream, but as it opens out towards the lake, there are a line of firmly secured over which you can skip. It is rather pleasant to stand on one of these and look down at the water flowing and bubbling away just a few centimetres below.The second part of the park was the Iguana House. In the center of Parc Phoenix is a large circular botanical garden Attached to this are a series of smaller rooms - greenhouses may actually be a more accurate word - containing tropical animals. The best of these is the Iguana House, where the reptiles are free to roam at will. The problem with the iguanas enjoying their freedom is that they can sometimes be difficult to spot. However, I was fortunate enough to get a superb view of one of them on a low branch.After the Iguana House, we visited the aquarium, which was nothing special. However, outside the exit, was the turtle enclosure. This was little more than a small pen full of sand and straw. It was occupied by three medium-sized turtles who were ambling around - rather slowly of course - for all to see. I found this rather captivating. The turtles had a great feel of dignity and experience. I could not help spending a few minutes simply staring at them intently.The rest of the Botanical Garden was also very impressive. There were scores of large, lush palm trees that stretched towards the glass ceiling. There was also a small rather dry hill that had been set aside for cacti. It was a fascinating sight. It felt as though we had wandered from the South of France to the Mojave desert or somewhere in deepest Arizona. The most compelling part of it all was the texture of each plant, which looked so intense. It gave the gardens a very tactile edge.I deeply enjoyed my visit to Parc Phoenix. The many various aspects of nature were wonderfully presented. I also deeply enjoyed the rather paradoxical idea of locating such a park next to one of the busiest airports in France. Entry to Parc Phoenix is just 2Euro.
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