To Paris With Love

Ile-de-France by Aristide Bonaventure Maillol (Photograph by Theadora Brack)

Ile-de-France by Aristide Bonaventure Maillol at the Jardin des Tuileries (Photo: Theadora Brack)

By Theadora Brack

Paris will survive. The City of Light has been through thousands of years of barbarian invasions, plagues, religious wars, sieges, and Nazi occupations, and always comes through. In fact, the city’s heraldic symbol is a boat on waves surrounded by a motto that says something to the effect that no matter how rough it gets, she keeps on floating, “Fluctuat nec mergitur!” A 14th century mantra: “Tossed by the waves but never sunk!”

And Paris will keep on floating and cha-changing with the times.

My musician friends have already started spreading the word about their upcoming gigs in concerts halls, big and small, and parks, bars and cafés, too.

“The beat must go on,” my bass player friend Jeff wrote.

Les Trois Grâces at the Jardin des Tuileries (Photograph: Theadora Brack)

Les Trois Grâces at the Jardin des Tuileries (Photo: Theadora Brack)

So this week, let’s also gently, gently sail forth with a stroll through the Jardin des Tuileries, one of my favorite havens to rendezvous, rain or shine. Created by Queen Catherine de Médici with a slight Italian flair in 1564, the Jardin des Tuileries (literally, “the tileworks”) was built atop the clay pits of the former city tile factory. Here Catherine and her courtside “flying squadron” of ladies-in-waiting threw many a fit, fête and soirée.

L’Air by Aristide Maillol at the Jardin des Tuileries (Photo: Theadora Brack)

A few decades later, King Henri IV grabbed the reins. With the help of gardening gurus Claude Mollet and Jacques Boyceau, the king of the urban-redo revamped the royal grounds, replacing the old-school checkerboard patterns with floral boxwood designs. Deep in the scrolling embroidery-like parterres en broderie, the petal-pushing king horsed around with his friends, entertainers, and mistress, Gabrielle d’Estrée. As Henri liked to say, “Great cooking and great wines make a paradise on earth.” O, Henri!

Basin at the Jardin des Tuileries (Photo: Theadora Brack)

Ahead of the curve he may have been, but very little of the dream team’s original makeover still survives because some sixty years later, the Jardin de Tuileries was given yet another redo by landscape architect André Le Nôtre, during the Sun King’s reign. After the Big Wigs’ big move to Versailles, it became one of the first public parks. Sadly, this was also where Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were held prisoners during the French Revolution. At that time, due to years of neglect, the gardens were rampant with duckweed, prostitution, and angry mobs.

L'Aube by Aristide Maillol at the Jardin des Tuileries (Photograph by Theadora Brack)

L’Aube by Aristide Maillol at the Jardin des Tuileries (Photo: Theadora Brack)

Today the park is back in the budding business. Here you’ll find beaucoup hideaways, perfect for reading and whispering sweet nothings. There’s never a shortage of café terraces, goats, flowerbeds, benches, shady trees or views of the Eiffel Tower. Here is where I often dance with sculptor Aristide Maillol’s voluptuous bronze beauties. With their infectious tranquility, this statuesque entourage of eighteen femmes has never failed to repair this flâneur’s heart. The statues have been holding court here at the Tuileries since 1964, thanks to a generous gift from Maillol’s muse and model, Dina Vierny.

Panorama du Jardin des Tuileries et de la rue de Rivoli (Image: T. Brack's archives)

Panorama du Jardin des Tuileries et de la rue de Rivoli (Image: T. Brack’s archives)

Seeing evening come to the Tuileries, I am reassured once more that this city is still a special place, a very human place, and a place for the whole planet to cherish and celebrate. This certainly isn’t the first time we’ve all needed to be reminded of this. Amid the smoking rubble of the Premier Guerre Mondial, tourists with copies of M.V. Vernier’s pocket-sized 1918 edition of “How to Enjoy Paris” in hand would have read these passionate words, urging them to keep visiting:

“The spirit of Paris gradually takes possession of you and permeates you never to depart. From now on, wherever you go, it will re-awaken you. You will be drawn back to it with irresistible force, like the moth, at even-time, to the flame. There is no other cure for Paris-itis—save a little three week trip across the ocean and tropics. And at the end of the voyage is found the long-sought-for-oasis, the delicious and magic fountain where lost attractiveness is found again, and the most capricious whim is satisfied.”

Grand Bassin at the Jardin des Tuileries, 1918 (Image: T. Brack's archives)

Grand Bassin at the Jardin des Tuileries, 1918 (Image: T. Brack’s archives)

Standing by a fountain in the Tuileries, I think yes, Paris may change a little—but then again, it always has. After all, that’s what made it what it is today. Just remember that, like the old French adage says, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

So stay safe, I say, but carpe diem anyway! Keep on traveling and definitely keep on dancing.

Basin at the Jardin des Tuileries (Photograph by Theadora Brack)

Basin at the Jardin des Tuileries (Photo: Theadora Brack)

La Douleur by Aristide Bonaventure Maillol (Photograph by Theadora Brack)

La Douleur by Aristide Bonaventure Maillol (Photo: Theadora Brack)

La Baigneuse aux bras levees by Aristide Bonaventure Maillol (Photograph by Theadora Brack)

La Baigneuse aux bras levees by Aristide Bonaventure Maillol (Photo: Theadora Brack)

BRACK Tuileries 606

40 thoughts on “To Paris With Love

  1. Like you, I’ve taken comfort in the historical reassurance that Paris will endure. But thank you for this impassioned plea to Paris’ other, more reluctant lovers …

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wonderful to see you Theadora, I’ve been worried about you. Your special message is not lost and your beautiful city will become alive again with tourists and visitors to enjoy the history, sights, sounds, food and best of all the amazing Parisians, like yourself – the best gift of all. You are the Ambassador of Paris ~ love to you my dear!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Merci, Thank you for your post. And particularly one of my (many) Paris favourites: Maillol’s statues aux Tuileries.
    (Which are most certainly considered indecent by the “bullies” as I call them)
    Même pas peur!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Yes, dearest Theadora, we shall always keep on dancing……a glass bubbly in hand. We hung our heads and wept with you and then we stood, held our heads high, popped the bubbly and put on Edith Piaf and floated about the room, knowing in our hearts that Paris shall always be Paris. Kisses and Hugs to you. Virginia and Tinny wrung their collective hands for your safety, my dear.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Lovely to see this today. I was pining to hear of you and your city … As a poet I like to listen to the sound of words, and what the many meanings are to the ears, to consciousness. Paris in French, Par-ee … To parry in fencing is to deflect an attack, so you see, your city has a charm in its name, it’s people and places are its light and spirit, yourself among them … Keep dancing!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Theodora, beautiful post! Parisians are so resilient, yet I am sorry for recent events that have tested your hearts and courage. I wish we lived in a more peaceful world. As you wisely say, we must not let fear rule our choices. So good to know you are safe, and still sharing the timeless beauty of Paris!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I love your evening pictures of Jardin des Tuileries. They are in the mood of the Paris situation. Unfortunately, the history of humans is the history of wars. Nothing is changed and nothing teaches.
    Anyway, Life keep going and it takes time to heal the tragedy. I’m sure Paris will cross through it and will stay attractive and welcoming.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. MILLE MERCI! I thank you from the bottom of my heart for this impressive & emotional(pour moi!) article… ❤ je viens de rentrer de Paris… I did walk into the Tuileries, too… Paris is an eternal poem – and you can dial a poem, it's FREE @ 0800 106 106
    * * *
    I've just reread "A Moveable Feast" – "Paris est une fête" by Ernest Hemingway

    “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast… When we came back to Paris it was clear and cold and lovely… There is never any ending to Paris and the memory of each person who has lived in it differs from that of any other. We always returned to it no matter who we were or how it was changed or with what difficulties, or ease, it could be reached. Paris was always worth it and you received return for whatever you brought to it… You belong to me and all Paris belongs to me…

    Paris was never to be the same again although it was always Paris and you changed as it changed… You expected to be sad in the Fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintry light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen. When the cold rains kept on and killed the spring, it was as though a young person had died for no reason. In those days, though, the spring always came finally but it was frightening that it had nearly failed…”

    Liked by 2 people

  9. She sauteed the lamb. Browned the sausages. Cooked the Tarbais beans to silky tenderness. Crisped the duck confit . The cassoulet was ready. She shined the silver, ironed the linen and polished the floors. Edith Piaf sang of love. Then brushing the silver dust of Paris off the balcony railing she watched as Monsieur Tinny and Theadora proudly walked the street towards her. Tonight they would celebrate their love of Paris.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. You are my connection to the beating heart and the tender, elegant and romantic soul of the beautiful city of Paris. But despite the recent pain I call feel how the strength of the city and its people is more powerful than ever before. I have a friend who does business there and who could not rest until he had heard from all the people he works with there. There is much love and support for you in England. I am so glad you are safe dear Theodora. x

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Theadora, thanks for the beautifully written reminder that if we let the terrorists irrevocably change our lives, they’ve won. So glad that you are safe and able to keep reminding us of that and so much more.


    Liked by 1 person

  12. Dear All!

    Good. Golly. Thank you for such leaving such thoughtful words. I appreciate the comments, the email messages, and the hugs. This week, I’m on a work trip. As soon as I return, I’ll reply to each one of you.

    Much Love,

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Ah Theadora. It is such a relief to hear from you. And so heartening to see our favourite summer haven by the water in the Tuileries. Many happy hours sketching and dreaming (escaping) there. I feel reassured knowing you are ok. Did I see your yellow-spotted orange knee boots in the Place on the news last evening? It was a wonderful statement and felt very Parisian. Heartfelt cheers to you and yours, dear Theadora. Philippa


    • I wanted to stop back by to let you know that Paris is still in my thoughts as we start this new year. Wishing you all the best.


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