While in Paris in August, I stayed in an area called the Marais, which straddles the 3rd and 4th arrondissements. Scattered here and there, within easy walking distance, are buildings called “hotel particuliers,” many of which have large, imposing facades fronting on the street. For example, the Rodin Museum, subject of an earlier post, is housed in the Hotel Biron.
Behind their facades, most hotel particuliers have a courtyard, and sometimes, like at the Rodin, a garden behind the building. Closest to our apartment was the Musee Carnavelet, two “hotels” that now serve as the museum honoring various periods of Paris’s history. Passing through the outer gates, I found a courtyard embracing a statue of Louis XIV, and the entrance to the museum. Cretin that I am, I breezed through the museum in record time, in search of the “garden” of the hotels, which I had seen in a book before I left home. Le voila!
I liked the way the summer annuals helped brighten up the otherwise very formal boxwood parterres. I’m not always a fan of a mix of really strongly-colored plants together – but in this case it worked.
This approach was also in evidence when – earlier in my stay – I visited the Hotel de Soubise during a walking tour of the Marais. Formerly the residence of French dukes and princes too numerous to count, it’s now the Museum of French history. The courtyard, or “cour d’honneur,” somewhat stark in the winter, sported brightly blooming swaths of summer annuals when I was there. The Verbena bonariensis was an especially nice addition.
The one other “hotel” garden I visited was that of the Hotel de Sully (also in the Marais).
Unlike the Soubise or Carnavelet sites, here I found no annuals to liven up the conical yews and boxwoods. But in their place, something even more interesting: in a classical formal garden, a freestanding stone lattice on the right side as you enter, and a “sculpture” of a mole (or badger?) encased in soil. There was no sign or any kind of information about the piece, which I can only assume is temporary.
For a look at another art installation in this garden, called “Bee’s Dance,” which apparently I missed (more’s the pity), click here. And be sure to explore these hidden gems if you’re in Paris in the spring, summer or fall! Next post – on to Oxford.