Wandering in Paris: City of Gardens and Light

October 1, 2009 by


I’m a “flâneur” in Paris for a few days. The French word “flâneur” doesn’t translate very well in English.  According to Wikipedia, the term comes from the verb “flâner”, which means “to stroll.”  A flâneur is a person who walks the city in order to experience it. Because of the term’s usage and theorization by Charles Baudelaire and numerous thinkers in economic, cultural, literary and historical fields, the idea of the flâneur has accumulated significant meaning as a referent for understanding urban phenomena and modernity.

As I wander the streets of Paris these past few days, I see why flâneur is a uniquely French word.  I have been visiting private residential gardens, community gardens, parks, and just anything and everything that catches my eye. Gardens are everywhere here: from the window boxes that call out to passersby, to the rooftop “toîts végétalisés” to the terraces overflowing with flowers, to the vines growing up the sides of ancient buildings. I want to share some of my finds:

The lawn is sleeping…

The view of individual apartment gardens below my friend’s 20th arrondissement

Hydrangeas on my friend’s rooftop garden

Couldn’t resist this great graffiti: “human era”

I had the pleasure of meeting the wonderful author, journalist, and Huffington Post blogger, Beth Arnold, at the new 20th arrondissement flat she shares with her husband, author James Morgan. Over coffee and pastries from her neighborhood pâtisserie, we discussed blogging, her many book projects and percolating creative ideas, and how the French, unlike Americans, could care less about Roman Polanski. The front room of the flat opens onto a semi-covered open courtyard garden that leads to the flat’s living room. Upstairs they have a fabulous wrap-around terrace off the master bedroom. Heaven in Paris.

The fabulous interior courtyard garden “room” of  writer Beth Arnold’s new flat

The view from Arnold’s 2nd story terrace looks below to courtyard, great stained glass windows!

I wanted to meditate like this statue on the Arnold terrace beside a climbing vine

Some end of season planting remain, but she looks forward to spring when the garden will come alive!

Stay tuned, more to come!




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