lundi, juillet 10, 2006

A Sunday Walk in the Jardin de Luxembourg

(How sad that "blogspot" won't support posting pictures right now. Some references below refer to pix I had hoped to enter. I promise to come back as soon as I can and illustrate this and other postings where I haven't been able to upload pix. I have a zillion photos to work with.)

I will pass right over my predictions for last night's World Cup match and return to an earlier, happier part of yesterday--my visit to the Jardin de Luxembourg. I had been there with my wife Leslie on a couple of occasions, once on our honeymoon and again on a trip last fall. It is a splendid spot. Neither my words nor the camera can do it justice.

It is very large. But so nicely proportioned as to seem like your neighborhood corner green space. Quite formal, like an English garden, but relaxed, with gravelly walks and tennis courts. It's made for children--Napoleon is said to have decreed that the garden be dedicated to them. (This is a wonderful aspect of Paris life: parks and gardens almost always have special areas designed for chidren and set aside for them. Where there might be a charge for visitors, the gardens are open free to mothers with children.) And indeed in the Luxembourg Gardens there are mini-rides and sandboxes, toy boats in a fountain, bumper cars, and a carrousel for children and others who want to play. Adults will find a rich variety of settings, too. The park is built on two levels. On the lower level, in the middle, a very large middle, is a spacious basin with walkways, fountain and pond, and several gardens. The subtle but dramatic shift between this basin and the surrounding raised areas is striking Much of the raised area is planted in plane trees cropped into uniform leafy rectangles standing on parallel rows of tree trunks. These regular, blocky, kind of dumb plane trees create powerful mass and contrast well with the finer elements of fountain and garden in the basin below.

An amazingly wide variety of flora decorate the gardens. Lovely beds of flowers I can't identify border many spaces, and palms of several varieties line some walks. How do they grow at this latitude? In another part of the garden grow 100-plus year-old Sequoias from California. Nearby is a very special garden-within-a-garden where espaliered pear and apple trees grow. There is a bee-hive area, too, a part of the natural system that I suppose in part accounts for the abundant growth of the garden.

Interesting contrasts abound here. On the whole, visitors are confined to the walkways and patios and may not tread on the grass. (In the Tuileries Gardens, discreet security guardiennes remind you that you are not welcome on the patch of grass where you might make the mistake of resting your bones or picnicking.) So who's this dude? [picture] The Medici Fountain (from 1624) is the picture of Italian formality and serenity--but look! A curious appearance. [another picture] On her way in? Out? Just hanging about? Such combinations--of the given and unexpected, traditional and intrusive, Cartesian and Dada--are common enough in Paris, and I get the feeling they are a treasured part of the national personality.

The Sénat, the French Upper House, meets in the palace the gardens belong to. I ought to have something to say about that too, the building or the body, but I can’t comment other than to say that the history of the palais has followed the general pattern in Paris of the shift in use from royalty to le peuple.