At that time, I wasn’t yet a Parisian. By that I mean I wasn’t actually living in Paris, but every weekend I’d catch a train from my provincial town and head towards the capital to spend the weekend with my girlfriend there. She lived in a small apartment in the Latin Quarter, right below the Place de la Contrescarpe. Arriving at Gare de Lyon, it was just a 15-minute stroll to her little nest, and I loved every step of the walk.
I couldn’t wait to see her, but I would however make two short stops on the way, the first to the Ménagerie du Jardin des Plantes, to say hello to the Mama Bear from outside the railing overlooking her enclosure. The brown bear usually paced around the rocky terraces that had been built to imitate her natural mountain habitat, but upon seeing me, she’d stop and stare at me as if to answer my silent greeting. Then I’d walk up to the Grande Galerie de l’Evolution (one of the Natural History Museum buildings, the most spectacular if you ask me) to pay my respects to the Pompon Polar Bear. A few copies of this massive polar bear sculpture exist, and the marble original can be found in the Musée d’Orsay, but this one was “my” Pompon Polar Bear, standing still so quietly and powerfully, waiting for my weekly visits.
My girlfriend soon found another boyfriend and changed apartments and the brown bear is no longer paces around the Menagerie, but the Pompon Polar Bear can still be seen in the back of the Grande Galerie de l’Evolution, silently awaiting my odd visits.
That morning was just a typical winter Parisian morning. It was cold and foggy. Just the perfect weather - I thought, for the adventure I was about to undertake.