Paris Tips: Let’s Fall in Love at the Jardin du Luxembourg
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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)!
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!”
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!