One of the many delights of the Luxembourg Gardens is the pleasure of sitting in the willow green fauteuil chairs, watching people and reading in the dappled sunshine. And on a sunny day, one can find a huge number of Parisians doing just that. It was where I sought respite coming and going from my rental apartment and where I sometimes took my iPad and sat to read. I never have tired of walking, strolling, sauntering or sitting in that beautiful garden spot in the middle of the 6th Arrondissement of Paris nor have I ever managed to take enough photos there!!
Supposition on my part: It’s called the Luxembourg Gardens (with an “s” on the end) because it is really a series of garden areas enclosed by a high and elegant metal fence with a pair of large ornamental gates on each of the five sides.
Altogether there are close to sixty acres of garden area that touch on the 5th and 6th Arrondissements of Paris. The gates are opened and closed at published times daily year round and there are strict rules about bicycles and motorized vehicles within the park, keeping it safe and secure for children, pedestrians, and the many individuals who run or workout in the park.
The origin of the Luxembourg Gardens dates back to 1611 and the Medici family. Marie de Medici, widow of “Good King Henry IV” of France no longer wanted to live in the Palais de Louvre after her husband’s assassination, so she purchased a building that is now the French Sénat and had it remodeled to her liking. At that time, the garden area was a mere twelve hectares (about thirty acres). Through the next two centuries and the reigns of many different kings, the gardens either flourished or deteriorated, were enlarged or diminished according to the political whims of those in power. However, it was during the reign of Napoleon and under the architectural influence of Baron Haussmann that the Luxembourg as we know it today really began to take shape.
And that shape includes large “garden rooms” that are designed to engage specific activities. The centerpiece is “le grand Bassin” directly behind the Sénat where one can always find children, their parents and grandparents or their nannies overseeing their fleet of little sailboats that they guide around the edges of the large pool centered by a fountain. There is a very old carousel for children, pony rides, and a playground. There is a covered pavilion where many a game of chess takes place at the numerous tables inside the open area as well as in the crushed granite areas that surround the enclosed play area for small children. And there is a gazebo where musical performances are held at one end of the park and at the opposite end, an apiary where bees are housed and their honey is harvested and sold each autumn. There are two restaurant/cafes and there are pay for use toilets, called “des chalets de nécessité” according to the brochure published about les jardins by the French Sénat. (The Luxembourg Gardens are now owned by the French Sénat, which meets in what is now called Le Palais de Luxembourg”. There are over a hundred sculptures placed throughout the acreage and among them is a replica of the Statue of Liberty, one of several replicas that are in Paris. The sculptor who designed the statue that France gifted to the United States in 1886 was named Frederic Bartholdi. Going back through a series of old photos, I have about fifteen years worth of pictures of the Statue of Liberty in the Luxembourg Gardens (the original small sculpture was replaced by a replica in 2012), with various traveling companions posed in front of it.
One can meander throughout the gardens along crushed granite pathways that are lined with the Luxembourg green metal chairs, chaises, and benches where readers, lovers, sunbathers, and nappers while away their afternoons. It’s easy to watch a game of boules or view the quiet competitions taking place around chess boards. Most of the grass areas are built up around statues that are surrounded by colorful parterres, structured plantings of flowers. There are more than one hundred statues and sculptures in the gardens. In the springtime the grass is carpeted by tiny white daisy like flowers that make light waves across the green. So, much of my delight in the park is in the flowers. However, the specimens suffered from too early and too warm of a spring followed by some very stormy weather that knocked off tulip blossoms and quite ravaged the beautiful work the jardiniers had done in early spring, BEFORE I arrived!! On the last day in Paris, walking home from the Pissarro exhibit at the Luxembourg Musée I took some pictures of a gardener planting new summer flowers around one of the statues.
Beside reading, relaxing and watching people, I took great pleasure on this trip catching readers unawares and gathering a sampling of the books, papers, positions and methodologies Parisians employ as they ”take the sun and fresh air’ while pursuing their most favorite pastime, reading. Tap on each photo for the caption.
Ah, but I have more…each has a caption if you tap on the photo.
Alas poor reader…even his tea could not keep him from dozing off.
A collection of readers…they speak for themselves.