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Paris Tips: Let’s Fall in Love at the Jardin du Luxembourg

“Venus” Water Mobile by Lotta Hannerz Photos by Theadora Brack

A hair before l’heure bleue

By Theadora Brack

With my pointy arrow, I feverishly pen this postcard from Paris. Confession: I have a new favorite park. There, I’ve said it. It’s true. I do! So with long looks and fiery chitchat, let’s roll on over to the Jardin du Luxembourg.

During the springtime, I usually head to Luxembourg after my big weekend hunts at the flea markets. Here at the park, there’s never a shortage of benches or shady trees. It’s another prime people-watching hotspot, but you’ll also find beaucoup hideaways, perfect for reading and whispering sweet nothings.

The hoedown

Created by Queen Marie de Médici and garden guru Boyeau de La Bareaudière with a fine Florentine twist during the 17th century, it launched in 1778.

Flaunting sixty-something lush acres, Luxembourg has played muse to photographers Atget, Brassaï, and Doisneau. Painter Watteau paid homage too. It also had a recurring role in Victor Hugo’s novel “Les Misérables” and Ernest Hemingway’s novels and short stories.

Moveable Feast

Here’s the poop! Rumor has it that in the years before Hemingway could afford to shoot lions in Africa, he hunted urban birdlife here by the Medici Fountain. Back in his salad days,  Luxembourg was known for its voluptuous pigeons!

Food for thought

Hem wrote: “There was always a gendarme on duty, but I knew that about four o’clock he would go to a bar across from the park to have a glass of wine. That’s when I would appear with Mr. Bumby—and a pocketful of corn for the pigeons. I would sit on a bench, in my guise of buggy-pushing pigeon-lover, casing the flock for clarity of eye and plumpness.”

Later he added, “We got a little tired of pigeon that winter but they filled many a void.”

Garden of Eden

The Jardin du Luxembourg boasts a hefty collection of over 100 statues (celebrating former French queens and female saints), the Medici Fountain, the octagonal Grand Bassin pond surrounded by raised terraces, Bartholdi’s original Statue of Liberty prototype, a school for training bee keepers, and a théâtre des marionnettes!

A hive of activity, this long list of attributes continues. There are also apple and pear orchards, flowerbeds with oranges, dates, gillyflowers and dahlias, and pomegranate trees.

Let’s not forget sports like tennis, running, chess, toy boat racing, boules, petanque (the national game), donkey rides, and a carrousel where kiddies can try to spear golden rings with little lances from upon wooden horses!

A Literate Passion: Crash into me

 

So where to score reading material?

I recommend the San Francisco Bookshop for good used books in English. Located nearby at 17 Rue Monsieur le Prince (Metro Odéon), the cozy shop is where I recently picked up a well-loved copy of “A Literate Passion: Letters of Anaïs Nin & Henry Miller”). Talk about the ultimate  starry-eyed read!

Henry wrote: “I have not dared until now to say what I think. But I am plunging—you have opened the void for me—there is no holding back. I am in a fever.” Oh, sigh!

Café, anyone?

La Brasserie Balzar is located at 49 Rue des Écoles, 5th arrondissement (Métro: Cluny-La Sorbonne). Try their signature profiteroles (mini pastries filled with ice cream)!

Le Grand Bassin: Pack a parapluie!

Café de la Mairie

Another favorite is the Café de la Mairie at 8 Place Saint-Sulpice, 6th arrondissement (Metro: Saint Sulpice or Rennes).

Located next to Église Saint-Sulpice, it was also a favorite literary haunt. Who else has found inspiration here?  Besides Ernest Hemingway, Henry Miller and Anaïs Nin, scribes like Saul Bellow, Fitzgerald and Djuna Barnes were often afoot. And let’s not forget James Joyce, Samuel Becket and Edward Hopper—just to name a few more!

What to order? I recommend trying their house Cantal jeune baguette and a pitcher of vin rouge. Then, sit out on the terrace and gaze up at the Église Saint-Sulpice!

Pinching from Henry Valentine Miller once again, “The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware: joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware!”

More skinny

Jardin du Luxembourg, 6th arrondissement
Métro: Notre-Dame des Champs, Rennes or Vavin

Tips for the road: I recommend the Notre-Dame des Champs Métro station because as you make your way to the park, you’ll pass a string of funky shops. And runners, each lap around Luxembourg’s well-maintained running path is 1.25 miles. So pack your shoes!

Stealing Beauty at the Jardin du Luxembourg

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95 thoughts on “Paris Tips: Let’s Fall in Love at the Jardin du Luxembourg

  1. As always, your blog come to me in the middle of my busy day and stops me for 10 minutes and transports me to Paris. Thank you and Merci!

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      • No…it is you and your blog that makes my day! I am fan of your beautiful photos and the research you put into every post. I’m trying to get my friends who are planning trips to Paris to follow.

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      • Again, Merci! I really appreciate your thoughtful words. Thanks also for spreading the word! What a gift. Oh, my! Enjoy the weekend!! T.

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  2. I feel myself plunging also…………and feel myself in a fever! ……..oh my! What a lovely place you have found. The face sculpture by Lotta Hannerz is spectacular! Oh you have quickened my heartbeat and I must find a shady place to sit and watch the people and perhaps even score a pigeon to pluck and take home to bake to a crispy goodness. Oh see you have me off on a wild and wonderful fantasy. What beauty you discover! I have so worked myself into a frenzy that I do believe a cold milk bath is in order!

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    • OH, sigh. Your passage was pure magic, magic, magic!! Oh, la la! I loved the short story. Thanks for the giggle session!! Theadora (Pssst—Parc des Buttes Chaumont is another dreamy place.)

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  3. I am so sad I missed seeing the Jardins du Luxembourg last week!! It’s now on my list for my next visit. I did make it to Brasserie Balzar and enjoyed their Monday veal plat du jour, it was fantastic and had a terrific bottle of wine. Great post, thanks!

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    • Thank you, Jen! Next trip! Add it to your list. How was the meal at the Brasserie Balzar? Did you dine on its fab terrace or indoors? I love this joint! T. (Did you score any fun bargains?!)

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  4. Greetings Theadora,

    My dear friend, Virginia, of Bellochio, inroduced me to you and pleased I am that she did so.

    It was only a year ago that I sat in this park; warmed by the sun as I experienced in its beauty.

    Thanks for the memories.

    Jill

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    • Hello, Jill! I love Virginia’s “Bellochio” work. And speaking of dreamy, did you visit any the other Paris parks or squares? The dusty Jardin des Tuileries is another favorite resting, reading and people-watching spot. Thanks for the visit!! Theadora

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      • Hi again….Oh yes, many parks and squares were visited so I could rub shoulders, practice my french and simply observe another culture interact. A few of the wonderful places I experienced to name a few were:

        Bois de Boulogne
        Parc Monceau which was 1/2 a block from the first place in which I stayed,
        Butte- Chaumont
        Place des Vosge,
        Place de la Concord
        Jardin des Tuileries and many others.

        I loved being there for a month which offered time to languish in some of the beautiful parks

        I also found homes stayed in by some of my favorite french writers such as Beaudelaire who once lived a block away from where I stayed on Ile Saint Louis. To that place there was a daily pilgrimage. Voltaire kept his mistress next door. I stood in another world as I gazed upon these homes imagining what it would have been like to have been with them.

        I had a grand time and dream of a return.

        Jill

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      • Hi Jill! Thanks for the list of parks! What a nice message. I love your list. Great ideas for future posts! Did you have a favorite park? Île Saint-Louis is also on my list. It’s a great spot for picnics! Theadora

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    • Well, thank you! And as you know, I’m a fan of your photography work. I’m still thinking the “bronze face” photograph. Statues are not easy to shoot. And you captured its expression. Haunting! Theadora

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  5. Hi, Theodora! I’ve just finished reading “The Paris Wife”, which is about Hem and his first wife, Hadley Richardson. Mr. Bumby is their infant son. Did you know that? I love your pics of the sculptures!

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    • Thanks, Anita! Have you read Gioia Dilberto’s “Paris Without End” back in January. It’s another interesting (and gossipy!) read. What did you think of Paula McLain’s “The Paris Wife” book? What do you now think of Hadley? Theadora

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      • Nope, I haven’t read it. I’ve got tickets to hear Paula McLain speak during the Dallas Museum of Art “Arts and Letters Live” event on April 20. I liked the book; enjoyed “living in the ’20s – – in Paris” through her descriptions. I’m not sure what I think of Hadley. I think she loved him, but I don’t have a lot of respect for her for staying with him/putting up with him and his lovers for so long. Although I think he loved her, I think Hem’s feelings for her drastically changed, however, when she lost the manuscript. I, too, hold her accountable for that, even though she meant well. What about your feelings of Hadley? Also, what did you think of Woody’s “Midnight in Paris”? I loved it, although I’m not an Owen Wilson fan. I watched that movie during the time I was reading the book and that was fun!

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      • Hi Anita! Lucky you! Are you planning to write a post about the event? Keep me posted! Have you read the restored “Moveable Feast” It includes an forward by Patrick Hemingway and an introduction by Sean Hemingway. Worth a read! From start to finish, I thoroughly enjoyed Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” film. The director is in love with the city. It was crystal clear. And of course, enthusiasm is always contagious. So yes, I loved it!! Theadora

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      • Hi!
        I’m sure, after seeing Paula McLain in person, it will weave its way into a post. Absolutely! I recently went to another Arts and Letters Live and saw Jonah Lehrer speak. Did you read that post of mine? The post is called Getting The Job Done. It doesn’t have to do directly with Paris, but it does have to do with creativity, which you are obviously gifted with. Certainly I’ll let you know when I do a Paula post.

        No, I haven’t read “Moveable Feast”. Thanks for the heads up! I’ll check it out…anita

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  6. Great post Theodora. I particularly like how you give both an overview of what to see for any first-timers, but also some deeper layers of info that even a seasoned visitor might not know. I loved getting a few literary quotes mixed in, as well as the Hemingway pigeon story. Thanks for an interesting read! (And I gotta go check out that freaky fountain nose!)

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    • Merci, Corey! By the way, I really enjoyed your recent post on Maurice Utrillo! I loved your photography. It was a great idea to retrace his footsteps and brush strokes. Beautiful post! Have you seen the “Urillo Et Les Peintres de Montmartre” exposition catalog? It’s usually in stock at the wonderful Musée Montmartre. From cover to cover, it’s gorgeous. It also includes works by Suzanne Valadon (Utrillo’s mother). Didn’t Erik Satie have a crush on Suzanne? I think so! I love that rumor. Enjoy the week! Theadora

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      • I’ll go ahead and shamefully admit I haven’t been to that museum yet, but it’s absolutely on my list for next time I’m in the area. I’ll check out that catalog for sure. And yes I heard that Satie & Suzanne lived on the same street and he used to woo her. That lady had her hand in a lot of Montmartre cookie jars if you know what I mean…

        Thanks for your kind words about the blog. By the way it might be fun to meet up one of these days and share stories/ideas about the city. Let me know if you’d be interested in that sometime (I’m a pretty laid back unimposing walking partner). Happy blogging and take care!

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      • Hi Corey! Yes, do visit the Musée Montmartre. It’s worth the trek! Here you’ll find both permanent and temporary exhibits, along with a classic French zinc bar! Also, the gift shop is fabulous. While you’re there, check out their “Steinlen” catalogue. It’s another beauty! The brainstorming is a great idea! Maybe when my work schedule eases up. (I travel quite a bit for work.) Of course, I’ll keep in touch! Theadora

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  7. I’ve missed the gardens on my previous trips. Not this time! I see why Hemingway went for those pigeons, they’re practically chicken-sized!

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  8. I wish I was there now. Funny to think of Hemingway killing pigeons to feed his family. Not that I condone that–I didn’t know the story. Thanks for all the info.

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    • Yes, Hemingway’s salad days weren’t always easy, breezy. He also wrote: “The best place to go was the Luxembourg gardens where you saw and smelled nothing to eat all the from the Place de l’Observatoire to the rue de Vaugirard. There you could always go into the Luxembourg museum and all the paintings were sharpened and clearer and more beautiful if you were belly-empty, hollow-hungry.” (Thanks for the visit! Theadora)

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  9. Great post, though I’m somewhere between being won over and grossed out by Hemingway’s pigeon-eating.

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    • Thanks, Rob! I know! I’m also on the fence about Hem’s hunting. This is why I left out most of the “dramatic” passages. Truth be bold, they made me a bit queasy! Theadora

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    • Thank you, Brigitte! Yes, add Paris to your travel list. Here’s another tip! The Musée du Luxembourg is back open for business. It’s definitely worth a visit! Giovanni Battista Cima: Master of the Venetian Renaissance opened today (April 5, 2012). It will remain open through July 15, 2012. Enjoy the week! Theadora

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  10. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. I love these photos. I love how the floating face in the fountain is mirrored in the background by the profile of the embracing couple, and then how that feeling is carried over into the next images. Wow, better and better. You constantly amaze me.

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  11. I just love the old garden! Was there yesterday, that fountain is magic! Your choice of pics is amazing 😉 Watch out my photo blog for some shots I took of roofs and at the “Promenade Plantée”… (still editing!)

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  12. Great post, as per usual, Theadora! Do you know if the “face” sculpture is still there? That looks worth a trip!

    Personally, I prefer the Buttes Chaumont to the well-bred Luxembourg… What can I say? I’ve always been a right bank rat, slumming with les gens “populaires”!

    Thanks for the Hem quips! Always a favorite of mine and the pigeon in the bottom picture looks good enough to eat!

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    • Thank you, Paul!!

      I also dig the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont! It’s a great spot to run, stroll and people-watch. The “ruins” are spectacular. I often see wedding parties striking poses in front of its temple, cliffs, cavern and waterfall. It’s another panoramic Paris backdrop. Have you featured Buttes-Chaumont or Luxembourg on your “Paris by Cell Phone” site? Theadora

      (Sadly, Lotta’s fabulous “Venus” water mobile has moved on. Perhaps it’s in another spot? I’ll keep you posted!)

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  13. Oswald, and his family in France, spend a great deal of time in Jardin du Luxedmbourg. Oswald is particularly fond of profiteroles, French Queens and female saints. Virginia

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    • Yes, Virginia! I’ll keep my eyes peeled for the dashing rabbit and his family. I believe! Gentleman Oswald is a looker. Theadora (Has your book about Oswald been published yet? Did I miss an announcement? Keep me posted!)

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      • Oswald is a bit of a dandy. My book is a work in progress and believe me we will be breaking out the champagne the day it is published. Rabbits like champagne as well as desserts. Virginia

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    • Hi Gilly! Great tip! I also love the Shakespeare and Company bookshop! Here’s the scoop! A favorite Beat Generation haunt, George Whitman (Walt Whitman’s nephew) opened the rue Bûcherie location in 1951 under the name of Le Mistral. He changed its name to Shakespeare and Company as a tribute to his friend Sylvia Beach after she closed up the original shop by the same name, which had been a few blocks away.

      Until December 2011, George himself held court here, but alas he is with us no more. RIP, George.

      Here’s the address: Shakespeare and Company 37 Rue Bûcherie, 5th arrondissement (Métro Saint Michel)

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  14. Fantastic opening pic. Also, neat closeups of the statutes, I may try that in Cental Park. Continue to save these for reference – I will get back to Paris someday.

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    • Thanks, Thom! I’ve been enjoying recent posts about the parks in New York City. Lovely nod! Exquisite shots! I used to live in New York. It’s a magical place during the springtime. Enjoy the week! Theadora

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  15. You have so many comments here.,……I hate to take up more space.

    I have a friend who lives near the LG…5 floors…..she calls it her “money pit”.

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  16. I spend a wonderful afternoon at this park last fall and your post brought back a lot of memories for me.

    One thing that I thought was so strange was the two strips of lawn that are separated by a walkway. On the left, there were so many people sitting enjoying their picnics that you almost couldn’t see the grass beneath them, but on the right, not a single sole. So crowded on one side and so barren on the other. 🙂

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  17. Sounds great! Wish I were there. I’d also love to shoot some pigeons. :-0 Our younger daughter will be going through Paris Wednesday on her way to Provence, but not long enough to see more than the airport and the TGV station. I’ll tell her to wave.

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    • Thanks for your thoughtful message. Very kind! I also dig Lotta Hannerz’s “VENUS” water mobile. You should check out her website. Her water mobiles now pop up all over the world. Her floating “chair” is another one of my favorites. Enjoy the week! Theadora

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      • “As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.”
        I think the descriptions of food and restaurants are amazing. So atmospheric. It’s a city of hope. It’s always on my horizon, even on those grey wintery days! My sister lives 5 mts walk from Place de la Contrascarpe so I’m lucky to be able to visit from time to time!

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      • Oh, yes!! This passage is another favorite. Hem’s “Garden of Eden” is another one of my beloved books. Lovely descriptions of food, drink and hair cuts. Worth the read and reread. La Place de la Contrescarpe (Métro: Place Monge)? Oh, she is very lucky!! Theadora (And thanks for your swell words!!)

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  18. This was a great post. I love that you pointed out Hemingway’s history in the garden as well as the female focus. I really enjoy bringing clients through the Luxembourg on our trips because of those two things –and of course because it’s beautiful. What’s also wonderful to see the fruit trees that have been gathered and protected and grown in that park for hundreds of year….It’s my favorite place to do our weddings too. I love the fountain because of the color. I wish we had done a wedding there while that mobile was in place. Very cool.

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  19. Very beautiful, creative pictures and words! Love the line drawings too. Suddenly I have been transported to another world. Thank you Theodora for coming to mine!

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  20. Oh, we love this park. My husband used to live nearby and we often stayed in the area when we visited later on–we’ve even gone jogging there (is that so “American”? Perhaps). Anyway, so fun to read your post–I didn’t know the history of the park until now.

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    • Hi Sara! Jardin du Luxembourg is one of my favorite places for running. Abbesses and Parc des Buttes Chaumont are other favorites. Where else did you run? The races in Paris are fantastic! Affordable with great parting gifts, to boot. My favorite? A lovely compact was given out at the end of a race in Bois de Vincennes! Theadora

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      • Oh, that’s the only place I’ve run–I’m not as much of a runner as I wish I were! I think my husband did participate in a few races a while ago, I’m not sure where else he ran at the time. Sounds like your races have been fun.

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  21. Wonderful nose in my favorite park in Pairs. Parisians always seem to add something that is “different” to their monuments…not always liked, but always interesting… from this nose in the pond..to cartoon figures from a Japanese artist I “enjoyed” in my visit to Versailles in …and once even the Eiffel Tower. Love your dexterity in subjects..

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