You’ve visited the Louvre, been up the Eiffel Tower and sailed along the Seine in a Bateau Mouche. So what better way to enjoy an Autumn break than by relaxing in the green spaces of Paris. And there are plenty to choose from – over 400 parks and gardens, with 250,000 trees, all about to take on that autumn mantle of russet and gold.
Autumn is a great time to visit, the Parisians are back from the coast and their rural retreats, the summer tourists have declined in numbers, and life returns to its routines. There’s still the remnants of warmth in the sun, enough to tempt you to linger awhile in the pavement cafés, before the chill of winter descends.
Strolling in the Parks.
Parc Monceau and the wonderful Jardin du Luxembourg have their own charms but for a spot of people watching, I like to sit awhile in the Jardin de Tuileries, Paris’ oldest and largest public garden laid out by Le Nôtre in the 17th century, stretching from the Place de la Concorde to the Louvre Museum.
From 22nd-25th October 2015, FIAC, the Paris Contemporary Art Fair, will present a number of outdoor installations in the Tuileries gardens at a time when the seasonal colours are at their best. The striking, and sometimes controversial, FIAC sculptures always give plenty to keep you entertained.
If the weather is bad, the nearby Musée du Louvre is a cultural retreat – from 1st October to 31st March Entrance is free on the first Sunday of the month. Other Museum free admission days here
At the forefront of the current mode for vertical gardens or mur végétal is French botanist Patrick Blanc, his amazing green wall at Le Quai Branley is a stone’s throw from the Eiffel Tower, itself situated in a green esplanade, the Champ de Mars.
The French have a word for the stroller or ‘casual explorer of society’ – ‘flâneur’. So become a flâneur , saunter the sidewalks and stumble upon gems of Parisian life. In the 12th arrondissement close to the bustle of the Gare de Lyon, is one of the prettiest residential streets, Rue Crémieux, a chic little street of colourful terraced houses with shrubs and flowers filling the window ledges and pavements. Wander down and marvel at all the little artistic details, the trompe l’oiel murals scattered here and there. A real inspiration for urban living!
Head west of the city to the wooded areas of the Bois de Boulogne, the former hunting ground of French kings, to really appreciate autumn hues. This is Paris’ green lung, full of joggers, cyclists, rowers and strollers.
At the heart of the Bois de Boulogne is the Parc de Bagatelle with its small neo-classical Château, created in 1775 after a wager between Marie-Antoinette and her brother-in-law, Comte d’Artois, who promised that he could indeed build it in 3 months – “a mere bagatelle”!
The gardens at the Parc de Bagatelle are extensive and varied ; the rose garden, filled with 10,000 rose bushes, is lovely and you should be able to catch a few late blooms.
Resurgence of Paris’ Cultural Life.
Adjoining Patrick Blanc’s mur végétal is the garden oasis surrounding Le Musée du Quai Branly , which features the art of Oceania, Africa and the Americas. It’s a fascinating garden surrounding the otherwise stark modern architecture, designed to be the very opposite of the classic French formal garden – winding paths, informal lush green planting, glimpses through the vegetation of the Eiffel Tower, and inventive covered spaces for workshops or simply sitting and eating that baguette. Inside, there’s a fascinating Exhibition, “Tatoueurs, Tatoués” , the history of traditional and modern tattooing, running until 18th October.
Paris, the City of Romance, looks especially good in Autumn, strolling along the avenues of pollarded trees as the leaves fall gently, pausing in that Left Bank café for an espresso, or absorbing the resurgence of Paris’ cultural life – Andy Warhol‘s monumental ‘Shadows’ opens on 2nd October at the Musée d’Art Moderne or catch the haunting ‘Madama Butterfly‘ at Opéra Bastille from 5th September. It’s a time of transition, the lull after the holiday rush of August, no ticking of lists of sites to be seen; it’s a time and place where romance can flourish.
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