Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Le Jardin Luxembourg - Paris


In 1613, Marie de Medici began building her "dream home," a palace in Paris in the style of Pitti Palace in Florence, the city where she grew up. The result is what you see today, the Petit Luxembourg Palace, located in the 6th arrondissement of Paris.

A grand home should, of course, have a grand garden. So Marie bought land to expand the Luxembourg Garden from around 20 acres to just over 74. She planted 2,000 elm trees for a start. Then she hired garden designer, Jacques Boyceau, an early proponent of the formal "jardin a la francaise" style. He laid out the garden in a series of parterres and fountains, following on work he did during the development of the gardens at Versailles and Tullieres. Some of of those features are still part of the garden today.

Sadly, after Marie passed on, the gardens fell into disrepair. After generations of neglect, a renewed interest in the garden was sparked in the late 1780s and restoration efforts began. The gardens now belong to the French Senate and are open daily to the public from early morning until dusk.


Today, the Luxembourg Garden is a popular place for Parisians to relax. Here locals are enjoying their workday lunch break. If this looks more leisurely than what we're used to in the US, it's because it is. Lunchtime in France is sacred. The entire country takes a two hour break from noon until 2 p.m., and during that time everything is closed, except for food service establishments. The French believe le dejeuner is the most important meal of the day, one to be eaten slowly and followed by either a quick nap or some leisurely activity.

Statuary abounds in this garden; over 100 statues, monuments and fountains can be found here. 


From the garden, you can see the Pantheon (above in the distance), the famous mausoleum where French national heroes are buried. These include Voltaire, Rousseau, Emile Zola, Victor Hugo, Marie Curie and many more.


I was struck by the fact that none of the chairs in the garden were secured - in the US, you'd either bring your own chair or the ones provided would be chained to a post.

Although the Luxembourg Garden is not mentioned in the Outlander books, it has played a role in various works of fiction, such as: Victor Hugo's Les Miserables and William Faulkner's Sanctuary.

I leave you with this final image - which could be a fitting illustration for this quote from the Parisian film maker, Claude Chabrol: "You have to accept that sometimes you are the pigeon, and sometimes you are the statue."

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