"Well, we really meant you to visit in May, but the rhythm required two syllables."
- Vernon Duke, April in Paris (1932)
Inspired by his song, a friend of Monsieur Duke's decided to spend the month of April in Paris - the weather was terrible. When the friend complained about the disappointing weather, Duke replied: "...the [song's] rhythm required two syllables." When I read this, my first thought was: if you're going to Paris for the weather, you're missing the point entirely. What makes Paris, Paris, is its rhythm...
When I'm in Paris, whatever the season, I am inspired by the many ways Parisians insist on infusing an intense, profound and effortless sense and sensibility of beauty - in every aspect of life, in large and small ways: freshly baked bread (every day), correct table settings (even when paper napkins are used - and they rarely are), framed artwork in the Metro stations, a kiss on both cheeks to say bonjour et au revoir. But perhaps my favorite Parisian staple is that, in the midst of a hustling bustling city, there are flowers, trees and green everywhere, in every season.
Along every rue, flower shops tempt you with their amazing variety of flowers and plants - in pots, buckets, hanging
- a glorious kaleidoscope of color. How can you resist? I can't, and I don't even try to.
Maybe it's because the city is ancient, there are gardens, parks and green spaces in the most unexpected and seemingly impractical places: behind wrought iron gates, nestled between buildings, in the courtyards of department stores, along the Seine - and most are open to the public. But my favorite is the one I walk through at the end of every day. It's the short cut to our rental apartment, in the 7th: the Jardin des Tuileries
the Musee d'Orsay, viewed from the Jardin des Tuileries
"'Til Paris...I never knew my heart could sing...what have you done to my heart?"
Of course les Tuilieries is fantastic. In addition to the varied, meticulously maintained gardens, winding pathways lined with stately trees, permanent statues and sculptures, every other month or so a different en plain air art exhibit is installed throughout the garden's 63 acres. But what I love most about les Tuileries is that it is a distinct ecosystem, a little city in itself...
At the eastern end of the Champs Élysées, just inside the garden's gates on Place de la Concord sits the tiny La Librairie du Garden des Tuileries. Although each of it's 4,000 books are for sale, this place is really a comprehensive library on everything that's green and/or blooms: botany, herbalist, history, architecture, design, literature and poetry).
The garden houses three cafés: Café Diane, Café des Maronniers and La Terrasse de Pomone. They all have expansive outdoor seating and the toasty heaters. They offer basic marginal food (may I suggest the charcuterie, salads, cheese(s) and wine(s) - all excellent). A sprawling outdoor living room - where the locals meet after work for a drink and tourists rest their weary feet after a day of exploring = a prime spot for people watching. I count myself as a bit of both. We often stop for much needed sustenance and libation, often meeting with expat friends, before starting the last leg of our journey home.
At one of the garden's fountains, children can rent tiny vintage boats and the long reeds needed to push them around the pond. Of course there's always a few artists - with their easels palettes and paint; perched on their little stools.
Early evening, as we were walking home, we saw two gentlemen leading 5 ponies down the garden's main thoroughfare. Mr. G asked if Rory and Sage could ride. They kindly agreed to allow the kids to ride to the main gate - Never was fast asleep in his stroller, exhausted from swinging in the park and riding on the merry go round til it closed...
"...Paris, this is a feeling no one can ever reprise."
Paris has given me so many gifts. But the most precious is...uninterrupted time with my family. No where we have to be, nothing we have to do but wander, explore, experience. Oui, sounds like a typical family vacation, but with an essential difference. Paris has welcomed us, encourages us to do more than tourist-visit. We didn't plan on it but we've built a life in Paris...
But, perhaps my favorite way to wander this city's florists, parks and gardens is alone. Sit at a cafe, beside a fountain, or a well placed chair with a view - and work, read, write, just...breathe. There's a certain pride and pleasure, knowing the city well enough to traverse it alone (with my camera, bien sur). "Well, we really meant you to visit in May, but the rhythm required two syllables." While She may require two or more syllables, Paris has several rhythms. For: lovers, the solitary traveller, families, the young, the old, the in-between. It's been a joy of my life to dance with Her in all of them...
*Two Syllables (a Postcard from Paris) was originally published in Belle Inspiration Magazine (online, May 2012). After several requests, I'm republishing all of them here; extensively revised, in no certain order.