Most of the time, it just takes a pretty picture on Pinterest or a scene in a movie and all of a sudden I’m not able to get my mind off of Paris. This city is everywhere — in the movies, the commercials, the fashion magazines. And every time I see it, I’m reminded of how I cannot wait to go back.
For me, Paris is the almost surreal contrast between picture-perfect movie settings and the edgy urban agglomeration. Its beauty is so out there and so subliminal at the same time, that it is almost impossible to describe Paris in just one sentence. But despite all the urban edginess and the buzzing creative insanity, there are still those places that are just plain gorgeous, and essentially Parisian — like the Jardin du Luxembourg.
Just like everything else in Paris, this beautiful garden in the Quartier Latin (the student-y neighborhood) is a place to get in touch with history. It was commissioned by no other than Maria de’ Medici, also known as the grandmother of Luis XIV, the infamous sun king. The park surrounds her gorgeous little (little royal standards that is) city palace, which was built in the early 17th century.
Maria de’ Medici is a historical person of special interest to me, because she was one of the very first things I encountered during my studies of art history. Back in my second semester (freshman year), I had to give a huge (read: nerve-wrecking) presentation on 17th century women portraits, specifically about powerful women having themselves depicted as the Greek goddess Minerva. Maria de’ Medici also chose to be painted as an ancient goddess, because she saw herself as the patron of power but also of the liberal arts.
But before I get too art historically carried away: What I like about Maria de’ Medici is that she was somewhat of a historical über-woman. When her husband was murdered, she took over the reign of France because her son Luis was still too young. After seven years of ruling, her son and other influential men fought her off the throne and later sent her into exile as they could not stand the thought of a woman in charge.
Okay, so you probably could also call Maria de’ Medici a callous, ambitious b!tch, but born and raised Italian and being one of Europe’s richest heiresses, she was a big sponsor of art and architecture. Many of the buildings, palaces, and places like the beautiful Places des Vosges were actually built during her reign or shortly after. France, and especially Paris, blossomed in the early 17th century, and much of what defines the city today can be traced back to that age.
Walking through the Jardin du Luxembourg feels like a (art) history lesson: The palace with its façade reminiscent of Italian baroque underlined by the palm trees in front of it and the perfect geometrical shapes of the French garden and fountains are the quintessence of Maria de’ Medici’s life — Italy and France colliding, seasoned with an atmosphere of historical greatness.
Whether you’re into history or not, the Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris is definitely one of those places you should see one day. My personal highlight was coming here for my lunch break — (desperately) trying to blend in with the Parisians on theirs.
Obviously, I was missing a cigarette and black skinny jeans, but for a second I thought I was a part of the community – pretending to live in Paris, hopping over to a 17th century park for a lunch break in the sun, dreaming of powerful women and courtly intrigues…
Have you been to the Jardin du Luxembourg?
Or would you love to spend your lunch break there one day?