Back in April, Judy and I visited Paris for the first time as a birthday/anniversary celebration. Great trip. Judy is still sorting through the 1,500 pictures she took (thank God for digital cameras). So far I’ve done one post on Monet’s Garden at Giverney. Both of us have been very hard pressed at work since then so the sorting is going pretty slowly.
All this is a lengthy explanation for why I’m posting in June about a trip in April. With that out-of-the-way, let me tell you about the Luxembourg Gardens, the second largest park in Paris. The gardens form a sort of enormous front yard for the Luxembourg Palace. It was not exactly my sort of garden (to put it mildly), but I enjoyed it anyway.
The first thing I liked about this Garden was that it was so alive with people. We went twice, and even on a chilly day it was being used by hordes of people: young, old, and middle-aged; reading, flirting, strolling, hanging out, and (my favorite) racing toy boats in the reflecting pond. There were enough people to make the scene lively, yet the garden is big enough and laid out so that there is never a feeling of being crowded. I liked the idea that this garden, which was built for the amusement of aristocrats, serves as a common open space for the pleasure of so many people.
The second thing I liked was the statuary and fountains. One thing about France is that you really can’t throw a rock anywhere without hitting some statue or other. Most statues in the Luxembourg Gardens were busts or full size creations representing various worthies or mythical characters. These I thought were just ho-hum. The really entertaining ones were those that seemed (to me) completely over the top. For example, there was a fountain containing a bunch of naked ladies holding a giant globe surrounded by rearing horses, surrounded by fish squirting streams of water, surrounded in turn by turtles squirting streams of water right back at them.
There was also a statue of a drunken Dionysus being carried off by a bunch of naked lads and lasses. I don’t think this is a statue the old Mayor Daley would have approved of. Classical themes were much more common than religious ones, by the way, but more on that in another post.
The Luxembourg Gardens had large areas of open lawn, playgrounds, and wooded areas. There were formal flower beds as well, filled mostly with tulips and forget-me-nots when we were there. The flower beds were not my style, but the element of color definitely contributed positively to the feel of the place. The other striking element was the views. Given that this was Paris, the “borrowed views” included things like the Eiffel Tower and the Pantheon.
Finally, there were the square trees. Why were the trees square? I’m not really sure. I’ve read that the gardens of Louis XIV (who built Versailles) were inspired in part by the idea of soldiers standing in rank, and these trees certainly give a militaristic impression.
Fortunately, not all the trees are tortured in this way. It was interesting to me that two of the most common street trees in Paris were sycamores and good old American buckeyes.
All in all, I’d say the Luxembourg Gardens should be a priority destination for any gardeners visiting Paris.