The urban transformation of Paris during the second half of the 19th century was visionary and egalitarian in its treatment of parks. Napoleon III directed green spaces to be incorporated into every neighbourhood of Paris, even as the city expanded to twice its size due to annexation of suburbs:
Do not miss an opportunity to build, in all the arrondissements of Paris, the greatest possible number of squares to offer Parisians, as has been done in London, places for relaxation and recreation for all families and all children, rich and poor.
Haussmann describing the instructions of Napoleon III on creating parks
The Littlest Park in Paris: Jardin Alice Saunier-Seïté
Inevitably, Paris has its smallest public park. It features its own little insect hotel.
Square d’Alleray-Labrouste-Saint Amand
Visiting this little park with the long name feels like entering a public living space within the city of Paris. The al fresco apartment offers a threshold, rooms, doorways, furniture, plumbing, and windows through which one can peer, becoming a voyeur within the rooms of the public apartment.
The interior spaces of Square d’Alleray-Labrouste-Saint Amand recall Riéti’s description of street art as democratic at heart, “paintings in the background of this common apartment, made for everyone, for anyone.” If the city is for Riéti a “common apartment,” this park invites a visit to a home whose rooms are delimited but not private. One strolls through both a living room and a commons.
Jardin Juan Miró
Paris’ avant-garde park.
Below, the path in the form of train tracks evokes Petite Ceinture, the defunct railway that encircles Paris. That railway is now being developed as a series of parks.
Jardin de la Dalle d’Ivry
The amphitheatre with potted-plant spectators.
Place de Furstemberg
Lovely, tranquil Place de Furstemberg is surrounded by 18th-century buildings, including the last residence of Eugène Delacroix (now a museum dedicated to the painter’s life and work).
The place is home to four pawlonia trees with big floppy leaves in the shape of hearts.
Square Henri Galli
Below: the base of one of the eight towers of the Bastille, the fortress-prison destroyed during the French Revolution.
About a century later, the tower was rediscovered and excavated during the construction of a metro line. The tower’s base now resides in nearby Square Henri Galli, where it offers a secluded spot for youth to chill.
I know I’ve walked in the rain through Jardin du Luxembourg, but I can’t remember.
The octagonal pond
I never tire of watching children push their rented sailboats into the wind with a stick. They follow the journey of their boats as they sail across the octagonal pond, and then rush over to wherever it lands to give it another strategic shove. Fortunately, the children never tire of their sport.
Below, a boy’s sailboat bears Spain’s country abbreviation and flag colours.
Nothing digital or battery-operated for rent here:
The ogre of the Medici Fountain
The quiet, shady grotto of the Medici Fountain invites relaxation with a bag of macrons.
I like to know something of the history of a place. However, digging into the Medici Fountain’s complicated chronology of construction, ruin, and layers of renovations, doesn’t offer as many rewards as pulling the thread of the insanely jealous cyclops clad in bronze patina at the far end of the grotto.
The giant green cyclops looms jealously over Galatea (the river nymph whom he loves) and Acis (her mortal lover). The two lovers are rendered sensually in a white marble embrace.
Briefly: Galatea spurns the cyclops, who in a rage hurls a chunk of mountain at the fleeing Acis, killing him. But Acis gets the last laugh: Galatea transforms him into an immortal river god, who proceeds to split the colossal rock that killed him and to flow forth eternally as a mountain spring.
In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, this cyclops is a complicated monster. He boasts to Galatea that he owns herds of sheep whose mothers nurture their “well-warmed lambs” with “bulging udders.” Yet he himself neglects to tend his animals. He claims to love Galatea, extolling her virtues to the skies. At the same time, he despises her for not returning his love and calls her every name in the book.
The Greek gods, all too human.
The storied beehives of Luxembourg Gardens
One of these days, I’ll be at the right place at the right time to buy some honey produced at the apiary of Jardin du Luxembourg.
Surprise movie filming
I was at the right place at the right time.
Sculptures of the Jardin du Luxembourg
Queens of France and Celebrated Women
Around the main gardens and the octagonal pond stand twenty statues of celebrated women (royalty, legends, muses). The statue of Marguerite de Navarre portrays the very image of thought.
She and her King-of-France brother supported artists, writers, and intellectuals and conducted a salon called “The New Parnassus.” Marguerite de Navarre herself was a writer of remarkable poetry and fiction.
In short, she was a key player in ushering in the French Renaissance.
Fountain and cenotaph for Delacroix. Three allegorical figures — Time, Glory, and Artistic Genius — swoop up to a bust of Delacroix.
Monument to Paul Verlaine
Baudelaire, memorialized in stone etched with one of his poems:
George Sand (a.k.a. Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin) wearing her fem attire:
Leconte de Lisle
Leconte de Lisle, a French poet born on the island of Réunion, receives a prominent cenotaph in the form of an angel carrying a bust of the leader of the Parnassian school of poetry.
Gabriel Vicaire (a.k.a. “Adoré Floupette”)
Under the campy pseudonym “Adoré Floupette,” Gabriel Vicaire collaborated with a fellow poet to publish Les Déliquescences (1885), literary satires of the excesses of symbolist and decadent poetry.
Aside: Sixty-odd years later, these two rapscallions inspired the Australian hoaxers who conjured up the fictitious life and works of Ern Malley.
Liberty Enlightening the World
Smaller models of New York Harbor’s Statue of Liberty keep popping up in Paris. I’ve seen three, but there must be more. This one is a copy of the bronze model that Auguste Bartholdi created while he was constructing the colossal statue.
Broken link of slavery: Le cri, l’écrit
Bronze sculpture commemorating the abolition of slave trade and slavery:
Le Triomphe de Silène
Below, the boisterous tangle of arms and legs culminates in the flabby, naked, and sloshed Silène, foster father of Dionysus. Silène seems to be the only one carousing — the others struggle unsuccessfully to keep his chaotic limbs astride his donkey, and get trampled in the process. Even babies are dangerously underfoot in this ludicrous orgy.
Note the smart kid feeding the donkey an apple:
The Mouth of Truth
According to an ancient Roman legend, the mouth of Truth will snap shut on the hand of a liar.
The Mask Vendor
At the base of the bronze statue are masks of illustrious French creative types: Corot, Dumas, Berlioz, Carpeaux, Faure, Delacroix, Balzac, and Barbey d’Aurevilly. In his left hand, the seller advertises a mask of Victor Hugo.
The Greek Actor
A young Greek actor rehearses his role, script in hand, mask cavalierly pushed up so he can read his lines.