Monday, May 18, 2009

Jardin du Luxembourg: Postcard Perfect

There are a few places in Paris where time and space seem to merge into an idyllic, sepia-toned postcard. It seems it is often a combination of natural beauty, complementary architecture, and a perfect balance of activities and open space. The Jardin du Luxembourg is one of these places. This large garden on Paris' left bank is so-well landscaped that one must search to find all of the things that make it truly special. Within its fences, it hosts orchards of apple and pear trees, a puppet theater, a large playground for children, a beekeeping school, a large gazebo with free public performances, and a pond in which children sail model sailboats.

The chateau and garden were initially built for Marie de Medicis in 1615, though there have been many changes since its beginnings. Due to the large number of sculptures now found in the garden (French queens, Beethoven, and the first model of the Statue of Liberty, among others) it is sometimes called the outdoor museum. In addition, exhibitions are posted on the exterior of the garden fence several times a year-- "small talk" among Parisians is often whether or not they've seen the latest exhibition and what they thought of it.

While sailing model boats around the pond is perhaps the most well-known past time in the garden, I've spent significantly more time in the playground, which has play areas for nearly every age group. It is a fantastic space that enables children to run free for a few minutes in the City of Lights-- a perfect afternoon escape. Note that there is an entrance fee, though it is quite reasonable. Also, if you plan to leave and return later in the day, get your hand stamped for re-entry. (Note: By contrast, the puppet theater is a bit more expensive and not nearly as impressive-- it is a fun activity if you have time to spend, but otherwise I'd skip it.)

While the children are playing in the garden, perhaps you can take a minute and write that sepia-toned postcard. Just make sure you keep it with you as a souvenir for years to come.

Jardin du Luxembourg

Price: 2,60 euros/child, 1,60 euros/adult
Address: 75006 Paris
Metro: Odeon, Cluny-La Sorbonne or Pont Royal (RER B)


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