I have been posting on the large gardens of Paris, so I thought I would present some of the smaller gardens as well. This is inside the Hôtel-Dieu complex, a working hospital, next to Notre Dame. The French believe that gardens help cure patients more quickly. This hospital has a full time gardener who keeps the gardens in good condition. The medicinal garden was a staple of gardening in medieval times, often mixed in with the kitchen garden. Also known as a herb garden or a garden of simples, specialized medicinal gardens have been made at least since the Middle Ages, though plants were grown for medical purposes long before. A “simple” is a herb used on its own in medical treatment. Many modern drugs are, of course, extracted from herbs and other plants.
During the Middle Ages, gardens were thought to unite the earthly with the divine. The enclosed garden as an allegory for paradise or a “lost Eden” was termed the Hortus Conclusus. In monasteries the cloister “garth”, a claustrum consisting of the viridarium, a rectangular plot of grass surrounded by peristyle arcades, was barred to the laity, and served primarily as a place of retreat. Umberto Eco describes the green swath as a sort of balm on which a monk might rest weary eyes, so as to return to reading with renewed vigor. This garden is certainly peaceful, and reminds me a little of the garth at Mont Saint Michel. The statue at the far end is dressed in clothing according to the whims of the hospital interns.
Another beautiful hospital garden can be found at Invalides, just to the left as you leave Saint Louis Chapel. Usually people go to to the right to the beautiful Jardin de l'Intendant but this quiet garden lies just steps away.
Of course directly behind Notre Dame, enclosed by two rows of pollarded trees, Square Jean XXIII is a beautiful garden that offers spectacular views of the flying buttresses of Notre Dame Cathedral.
Nearby at the tip of the Île de la Cité is the Square du Vert-Galant, a triangular park that has unbeatable views of the Pont des Arts and Paris. The last Grand Master of the Knights Templar, Jacques de Molay, was burned at the stake on the Île de la Cité near the Pont Neuf, on March 18, 1314. A plaque commemorating this event is just between the two doorways at the bottom of the stairs. He was actually killed on the Île des Juifs (Island of the Jews) but this island was joined with the Île de la Cité when Pont Neuf was built.
Another beautiful small garden is the Anne Frank garden just behind the Centre George Pompidou in the Marais. The area is incredibly busy but the garden is quiet since it is located at the end of the little Impasse Berthaud paved dead end street. As a consequence, it is hard to find and the garden is very far away from tourists. Only a few locals go there despite the natural beauty of the park.
Museums often have nice gardens, the one above is a medieval garden next to the Musée Cluny. Although it is just a passage, it is a quiet and restful place away from the crowds.
The Rodin Museum has a large garden filled with statues by Rodin which is big enough to find a quiet spot to sketch if you like. This garden also has a café where you can buy ice cream.
Another beautiful and secluded garden can be found in the Marais at the Archives Nationales. They have a lovely formal garden in the front but the real gem is to be found on the right side of the museum. Imagine this, a huge garden just around the corner, hidden behind tall, thick walls. And one day the lord of the castle decides to open the doors and let everybody in to enjoy the green wonder. This is what happened in 2011 when President Sarkozy proposed a plan for a “Maison de l’histoire de France” and opened the garden to the public. The National Archive was opened by Napoleon in this site in 1808, to centralize, protect and preserve documents after a decade where extraordinary damage had been done to France’s cultural heritage, not only stone and glass, but paper. This building is not only a monument to France’s history, but has also for more than two hundred years proudly exemplified France’s commitment to the very idea of history.
Of course one of the best museum gardens is hidden inside the Petit Palais right across from the Grand Palais and just down from the Alexander III Bridge. If you visit, you might as well see the museum, full of great art like Carpeaux (the inspiration for Rodin), a self portrait of Rembrandt and a portrait of Jean-Charles Adolphe Alphand, the architect of most of the parks in Paris. They also have a lovely café on the garden.
On the way to the Rodin museum you pass by a lovely park just past the cannons on Boulevard des Invalides. Invalides has many gardens inside and along the border, but this one is my favorite. The Square Santiago du Chili is hidden from the crowds by vegetation, it even has views of the Eiffel Tower. As an interesting aside, it was built by Jean-Charles Adolphe Alphand.
I would be remiss if I did not include the garden of my city hall arrondissement, the 16th. In fact each of the 20 arrondissements have a city hall (called a Mairie in French) each with a garden, including the city hall of Paris downtown, the Hôtel de Ville.
I have saved the most famous for last, the Jardin de la Nouvelle France. This small garden has been described by several authors as their favorite garden in Paris. Part of the Champs-Élysées’ gardens, this “Swiss Valley” was built from scratch in the late 19th century by the park designer Jean-Charles Adolphe Alphand. It is a lovely garden on two levels, with a pond and running brook, right next to the Palais de la Découverte.
This is far from a complete list. Thanks in part to Napoleon III, Baron Haussmann and Jean-Charles Adolphe Alphand, there are literally hundreds of green spaces in Paris. There is more to Paris than shopping, restaurants and museums. If you visit Paris and see a little green, go out your way to check it out. There will always be time for tourist attractions, literally stop, see and smell the roses. You could find your own secret garden and have some very personal memories of your trip.
Hidden Gardens NY Times: http://travel.nytimes.com/2008/06/29/travel/29gardens.html?pagewanted=all&_r=2&
Pont Neuf and Pont des Arts: https://traveltoeat.com/the-pont-neuf-and-pont-des-arts/
Jardin Anne Frank: https://traveltoeat.com/jardin-anne-frank-the-marais-paris/
Gardens in the Marais: http://www.parismarais.com/marais/uk_gardens-in-le-marais.php
Gardens of Invalides: https://traveltoeat.com/gardens-of-les-invalides-paris/
Jardin de Nouvelle France: https://traveltoeat.com/jardin-de-la-nouvelle-france-arrondissement-8-paris/