Parisian Park Life
Ernest Hemingway once said, “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus, you remember them as they actually are.” But that goes double for traveling by foot, especially at the Jardin du Luxembourg.
Jardin du Luxembourg
Created by Queen Marie de Médici and gardening theorist Jacques Boyceau in the 1600s, Jardin du Luxembourg was opened to the public in 1778.
You’re not only able to run here but also rub shoulders with the statues of French queens and saints. I’m hardly a martyr or a monarch (yet), but I do have a few tips for a divine run.
Ready! Set! Bolt!
Get the action going at the Notre-Dames-des-Champs Métro stop. When you surface, take rue Notre-Dames-des-Champs a few blocks to rue Vavin. At the intersection, the park will be on your left, and on the right, you’ll spot one of the centuries-old Wallace water fountains. The water is free and tasty, so refill your bottle here before and after your fast trot.
What to expect
Each loop around the perimeter of the park is about 2 kilometers. Forget your watch? There’s a clock on top of the Palais du Luxembourg. Arrive early in the morning, for this place is a stroller-magnet—in both senses of the word. On the flipside, it’s a prime people-watching spot. Also, there are toilettes, staffed by attendants. Pack a few 50-cent coins in case you need to skip to the loo.
Shade. With its hideaways and fountains, Luxembourg has always felt like an enchanted forest. Here there are more backdrops for photo-ops than you can shake a selfie stick at. Poseworthy sites include a gigantic 200-year-old lion king and Bartholdi’s original Statue of Liberty prototype, along with the Medici Fountain, the Grand Basin pond, and a carousel designed by Opéra architect Charles Garnier.
Props to props
Before enjoying an Instagram moment with Pan, George Sand or Beethoven in statue form, why not score a few props, picture-perfect for your rose-colored filters? Scattered around the park are souvenir stands stocked with whirligigs, balloons, and lollypops, not to mention café terraces with ice cream, sandwiches, and things to drink. So don’t forget to pack a camera or smartphone for self-documentation of momentary bliss.
Years before Ernest Hemingway could afford to shoot big game in Africa; he hunted urban birdlife here by the Medici Fountain. Back in his salad days, Luxembourg was known for its large pigeons.
He wrote, “We got a little tired of pigeon that winter but they filled many a void.” But if you’re feeling hunger pangs after your run, don’t worry about having to take an urban safari. Instead, make a beeline to a snack shack in the park. How do I know? A well-fed birdie told me so.
Jardin des Tuileries
Conceived with a slight Italian flair by Queen Catherine de Médici in 1564, the Tuileries was given a redo by landscape architect André Le Nôtre during the Sun King’s reign. After the Big Wig’s big move to Versailles, it became one of the first public parks.
Your eye will spy flowerbeds, shady trees, views of the Eiffel Tower, and a statuesque squad of eighteen bronzes by Aristide Maillol. As if that’s not enough, there are grazing goats, miniature sailboats, the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, and La Grande Roue rotating over the Place de la Concorde.
Hooves-down, it’s the Chèvres des Fossés, a calming sight for sore eyes. After I get my fitness on, I linger on here at a moat with goats, located near the grand basin. Tip: Do not feed the endangered posse. They’ve got plenty of grass and eating it is their job, after all. Take heed: They’ve been known to photo bomb like nobody’s business.
Parc des Buttes-Chaumont
Designed in 1867 by Emperor Napoleon III, engineer Jean-Charles Alphand, and horticulturist Jean-Pierre Barillet-Deschamps, this floral showstopper with its mountain-village vibe opened during the launch of the Paris Universal Exposition.
This park has everything. As you make your way along its narrow winding paths, prepare to be bug-eyed at the sight of caverns complete with waterfalls and stalactites, a lake (fashioned from a former gypsum quarry) surrounding an island topped with a Roman temple, and reached by a suspension bridge designed by Gustave Eiffel himself.
While rolling along listening to the crashing waterfalls and cooing rendezvouses, keep a watch out for the spirit of surrealists André Breton and Louis Aragon who fancied Butte-Chaumont’s poetic, dreamlike vibe and loved reveling in the park’s manmade ruins after dark, with the ghostly Sacré Coeur in full view.
“A mirage! An oasis in the city!” they wrote. Still true today, in fact, here is where I often find 24-karat transformative peace. And that’s what you want in a run: A new way of seeing things! That, and a power drink, and Bruno Mars in the earbuds, too.