“Across from the Louvre are the lovely courtyards of the stately Palais Royal. Although the palace is closed to the public, the courtyards are open. Enter through the whimsical (locals say ‘tacky’) courtyard filled with stubby, striped columns and playful fountains (with fun, reflective metal balls). Next, you’ll pass into another, perfectly Parisian garden. This is where the in-the-know Parisians come to take a quiet break, walk their poodles and kids, or enjoy a rendezvous – amid flowers and surrounded by a serene arcade and a handful of historic restaurants. Bring a picnic and create your own quiet break, or have a drink at one of the outdoor cafes at the courtyard’s northern end. This is Paris.” – Rick Steves’ Paris 2014
I’m seated at that northern end on a bench near one of those cafes. It is lovely, peaceful, and an ideal place to sit and rest. “Envisager” (ahn-vees’-ah-jhay) – to contemplate.
A tai chi class has just finished near the center garden. They capture perfectly the atmosphere of serenity which envelops me in this special place.
A man just dropped near the surrounding arcade and did perfect push-ups. (I am certain that the perfect push-up is forever beyond my reach.)
It is as if it is a secret garden, hidden from all but the eyes of the locals and only the most inquisitive of Paris visitors. Yet, it hides right under out noses, in the midst of the tourist center, a very short walk from the Louvre and Jardin des Tuileries. Although the barren black-and-white stump-filled Cour d’Honneur left me underwhelmed, once I exited the little passage that connects the courtyard with the Jardin du Palais-Royal, I was filled with wonder. From a grayscale cemented “place” I stepped into a world of flora and manicured gardens,
of established trees,
and playful sculptures.
A central fountain draws visitors to sit, and have a picnic and a bottle of wine.
There are other gardens in Paris which I favor more than this one. For me, I could come to Paris just for the opportunity to walk through and admire the Jardin des Tuileries. But, I am charmed by the Jardin du Palais-Royal, by its hiddenness, the secret of it. It is very similar to the discovery of Place des Vosges in the Marais.
I am struck by the thought, “How wonderful it would be to share this secret garden with a child.” Would that I might one day whisper in a little ear – perhaps after a big visit to the Louvre or the Eiffel Tower or after a boat ride down the Seine – “Now, I have someplace very special to show you. Believe it or not, very close to where we are now, even with all the people and noise around, there is a quiet place, a pretty place, a secret garden. Would you like to see it?” And, the child’s eyes would light-up and a smile of anticipation would transform his or her face. And, then I would show that special child the way to the Jardin du Palais-Royal.
I am enjoying discovering – and rediscovering – this the 1st (1er – “prem-ee-ay”-for “premier”) Arrondissement very much. I am enjoying discovering quiet Paris courtyards and gardens in the midst of the fray that is Paris.
Encountering this “secret” garden was a delight.