My home until the end of July is a summer program just seconds from the south-west corner of Le jardin du Luxembourg (Luxembourg Gardens). Some days are so busy that this may be the farthest I get from the program, so I’m lucky that it’s so beautiful! The garden was acquired by Marie de Médicis, the Florentine wife of Henri IV, in the early part of the 17th century. The Rive Gauche (Left Bank) that became the home of philosophers and beautiful people was farmland back then. After the assassination of her husband, Marie wanted to leave court life centered around the Louvre. She missed theBoboli Gardens that surround the Pitti Palace in Florence. Marie bought the gracious home of the Duke of Luxembourg in 1612 and continued to buy parcels to add to her holdings until her exile in 1631.
In the intervening centuries, the garden changed dramatically. Parcels on the western side were sold off. Under Baron Haussman, during the massive transformation of Paris in the Second Empire, the garden was given its current shape. Today, it is surrounded by a massive fence pierced with gates. There are shady paths that are perfumed with the scent of chestnut trees in the morning where joggers perform their rites. There are large fountains; one is home to toy boats and throngs of children. There are marionette shows, playgrounds, a carousel, and cafés. The French Senate meets in the former palace. There are thousands of chairs and benches where people gather, tourists rest, and lovers cuddle. There are pétanque and tennis courts. Even with all that activity, it is a haven of calm and tranquility. The mournful call of “Fermature” (Closing time) at sundown by the gendarmes who guard the park always comes too soon for me.
Today’s saying, Il ne faut jamais dire “Fontaine, je ne boirai pas de ton eau!” (Eel nuh foe jameh deer “Fonten, sjuh nuh bwarA pah duh tohn O”) literally means, “Never say, ‘Fountain, I will never drink your water!’” The English equivalent is much simpler, “Never say never.” The water in the fountains in Le Jardin du Luxembourg, however, probably shouldn’t be drunk under any circumstances. Stick to the cafés.