Tuesday, November 14, 2017

A Walk Through the Tuileries

I love fall and I love Paris, so arriving when the trees were in their autumnal glory was about as perfect as our vacation could get. Unfortunately, the weather was crazy and the sun disappeared faster than a chocolate croissant. That was ok, Paris always looks great, even on a cloudy day.

We had caught an early train to the city and since our hotel room wasn't ready, we opted for a stroll through the nearby Jardin des Tuileries. To be honest, I never gave it much thought. It's a nice way to get across Paris without having to walk alongside six lanes of heavy traffic. However, since putting this post together, I've learned it has quite a history of it's own - for a garden.

In 1559 Catherine de' Medici, a widowed queen, built herself a royal palace with a big fancy garden. She sold the palace she was living in and picked a spot next to the Louvre that had once been home to factories that made roofing tiles called tuileries. Apparently, she wasn't bothered by the working class connection or maybe it means something else in Italian? It sounds pretty anyway.

Hmmmm, Chanel or Dior?

It was a popular spot with the next four generations of kings until Louis XIV came along. He hired André Le Notre, a famous landscape architect to redesign the 63 acre space into what it looks like today. Unfortunately, Louis didn't hang around long enough to enjoy the transformation. He had built Versailles and moved there permanently in 1682 when he got tired of dealing with the Parisians. 

Marble statutes are everywhere, they line the main paths, surround the ponds and seem to pop up where ever there's space. The bust at the top of this pedestal is Charles Perrault, a Parisian author who is credited as being the founder of the modern fairy tale genre. In 1667 King Louis XIV granted his request to open the Tuileries to the everyone, making it the first royal garden to be open to the public. After the Revolution it became a permanent public park. 

In 1697 Perrault published a book subtitled, Tales of Mother Goose, for the amusement of his children. It included his re-telling of the folk tales of Puss in Boots, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Little Red Riding Hood, among other stories. One hundred years later his writings influenced the Brother's Grimm to produce their versions in German. Would we have Disneyland without this guy? It took another hundred plus years after that to honor him with this statue. Better late than never. 

Then there are the Moat Goats, always busy keeping the grass tidy. The Chévres des Fossés (yes, even the French word for goat sounds nice) is an endangered breed, there were only about a hundred of them left a decade ago. A non-profit group brings them to the garden to keep the grass in the moats (again, a nicer word than ditch) that surround the grand pond under control because the area is too steep for conventional lawn mowers. Undoubtedly, they're less noise, too.

Until the 1960's most of the sculpture in the garden was from previous centuries. Since then modern and contemporary works have been continually added. Actually, we watched one being installed and it looks like they keep a sort of changing exhibition going on all of the time. 

As we got closer to the Louvre the clouds began to gather . . .

. . . and so did the crowds.

After Napoleon I became emperor in 1804 he moved into the Tuileries Palace and had the Arc de Triomphe du Carousel built to serve as it's gateway and to congratulate himself on his military victories. In 1871 members of the Paris Commune, a revolutionary government that lasted only two months, burned the palace down after France lost the war with Prussia. Honestly, the Europeans fought among themselves so much it's hard to believe there was anyone left to carry on. Over the years the garden was occupied by Austrian, Russian and Prussian soldiers, hit with German artillery shells and saw fighting during the liberation of the city from the Nazis in 1944. After being around for over 450 years I guess it can handle a few million tourists each year. 

Another thing I had never noticed before was that through the Arc de Triomphe du Carousel you can see the obelisk at the Place de la Concorde and all the way to the Arc de Triomphe at the end of the Champs-Élysées. How could I miss something 75 feet tall? At this point it was looking like we wouldn't make it that far without getting drenched, what a time to forget to bring the umbrella.

Getting to the end of the gardens and crossing the street to the Place de la Concorde is something I usually try to avoid, especially when it's about to rain. However, HM wanted to take some photos so we risked becoming road-kill and joined the tourist hoard. The monument is quite an interesting combination of ancient Egyptian art and 19th century French geekyness. This 3,300 year old obelisk once stood at the entrance to the Temple at Luxor. It was a gift from the Egyptian government and in 1836 was placed in the center of Paris, where the guillotine stood half an century earlier. The gold leaf markings on the it's pedestal are diagrams explaining the special machinery used to transport it. Sometime in the 6th century BCE the cap was lost but replaced with a gold leafed version in 1998.   

 It's a little less than a mile from the Louvre to the Place de Concorde and we got there just before the sky opened up. We ducked into the L'Église de la Madeleine (the building on the left, another bit of Napoleon's work) where as luck would have it, there was a free concert that lasted until the rain stopped! Gardens are always beautiful and thanks to his two new knees, HM and I were able to walk through the Tuileries on what turned out to be a very educational day. So, are you ready for the quiz?

Thanks for stopping by!


  1. what a lovely post! it's educational and SO entertaining.
    You took some gorgeous photos!
    I love that statue of Charles Perrault.
    I'm glad you were able to avoid the rain, and get to go to a free concert.
    thank you.

    1. I had never heard of Charles Perrault and there was no info near the statue except for his name. Out of curiosity, I looked him up on my phone when I recognised the Puss in Boots character. Wandering off the path can be really worthwhile sometimes. Can't help but wonder how he would feel about Disneyland Paris though, ha!
      Thanks for stopped by!