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Paris The Left Bank - Luxembourg Gardens

Updated: Jun 21, 2023

Put simply, the Luxembourg Gardens (known affectionately to locals as Le Luco) are a delight. If visiting in a group, as a couple, even all alone, they lift the spirits when you are there and take you somewhere else. The statues, the trees – in leaf or out – the ponies, the bandstand – empty or full of music – the flowers at all times of year, the palm trees in summer, the chess players – particularly wrapped up in winter – the miniature sailboats, the candy floss, the bees and the beekeepers, the tennis players of all skill levels, the puppet shows, the joggers, the sunbathers, the readers, the children and the grandparents, the chestnuts and the chestnut trees: all of life is wrapped up in the gardens, and if you could not exactly spend an entire day here, you could spent at least half an hour here every single day of your life. Originally, the private gardens of the Palace of Marie de Medicis, built in the 1650s, the grounds are today part of the Senate (which reputedly has the best wine cellar in all of France (perhaps the world?)). If you are fortunate enough to play tennis in the gardens through the club’s convoluted membership and booking system, be prepared to be removed at the swish of a Slazenger racket as Senate members retain the prerogative to brush you off courts at will, without prior notice. Like most parks in Paris, the gates of the Luxembourg Gardens open and close throughout the year based on sunup and sundown, and being there at closing time is always an impressive display of old-school whistling by uniformed guards as they corral people systematically towards the exits. Given the height of the railings, I have never known anyone to spend a night there – nor even to have read an account of one – and I dare say it would be something of an interesting challenge and a great story to tell the grandchildren. Of special note for young families is the little playground which charges a small entrance fee but which is fully deserved given the delight and the noise coming from the enclosure. Right beside the playground there are several shows throughout the week in a little Marionette theatre where Punch and Judy are still going strong in this the 21st century, along with a sweet shop outside which specialises in hot candy floss, translated endearingly as Grandad’s Beard: Barbe-à-Papa! Also of note for young children are the little ponies for hire and it is nostalgically touching to see them making their way home late in the day in an orderly fashion down the Rue de Vaugirard. For more grown-up past-times, stroll over to the Pétanque (or boules) section where an illustrious club of old-timers throw steel spheres around for pleasure and to pass the time. Don’t be put off by the lackadaisic body language: getting into this select group is probably even harder than getting into the Senate, but at least you can pull up one of the green iron chairs and look at the skillful throwing and look forward to your retirement when you put your head on your pillow and dream of the winning shot that could have been. Those green iron chairs are an integral part of the Luxembourg Gardens and probably the best way to take in Le Luco, so take one with an angled back and place it in the centre of the garden, turn it towards the sun, close your eyes and listen to the sound of the water from the fountain and the world going by. For best effect, follow these instructions and repeat daily. Le Jardin du Luxembourg, multiple access points including Boulevard Saint-Michel, Rue de Medicis, Rue de Vaugirard, Rue Guynemer and Rue Auguste Comte.

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