Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Flowers in Paris

Paris is organized into arrondissements which fan out in a spiral from the center of the city. At first this is confusing, but on a map it makes perfect sense. We are in the 8th, a quiet and elegant quartier just north west of the Champs Elysees. Outside our windows, there is a small park filled with horse chestnuts whose leaves are just beginning to turn. The park is flanked on three sides by lovely old sandstone buildings with grey slate rooves and white wooden-shuttered windows. Each window has a little ornate iron grille and a box of pink & red & white geraniums. Window boxes are wild and elaborate here, as are the gardens. The Tuillerie gardens, for example, had such an array of plants from tall (runner beans, black-eyed susan, trumpet vines) to medium to small, and organized with such madness, it was almost as if the city had given over the upkeep of its gardens to a crazy, avant-garde artist. There is nothing careful about the landscape design here. Flower shops are cascading with olive trees, hydrangeas, mint, asters, crysanthemum, roses and dahlias in ever color imaginable, interspersed with topiaries, clay pots, elegant iron containers and in some cases wild animals (I did spot a full sized stuffed polar bear in one shop -- see top right of photo). Each area has its own character and we found ourselves migrating toward the 5th, around St Germain where Le Bon Marche opens its doors and clusters tanned women carrying pretty orange parcels spill out. My mother dislikes the trend for keeping dogs in the city. "They need a field to run around in," she says. But they walk on by in their belted above-the-knee trench coats, black leggings, flat sandals with their dogs on those long leads threaded with thin cord that could cut your arm in two.

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