Spring in Paris
Japanese cherry blossoms, Parc de Sceaux
Hardly very original is it? But spring will always remain a source of wonderment for me. You see, I come from tropical North Queensland and until I was 22 I only knew about spring from books and poems.
I have vivid memories of my first spring in France. I was living in Pau in the Pyrenees and would chug off on my trusty Solex into the country, polluting away, until I found an appropriate meadow of buttercups and daisies and would then just lie there, soaking it all in (and hoping no cows would disturb me). I’d never even seen a meadow before, let alone buttercups – just paddocks and scrub and bush.
Another wonderful spring memory was the next year on a holiday to England. I was visiting Warwick Castle and a late snowfall had partially covered a field of daffodils. I wandered around quoting Wordsworth – “When all at once I saw a crowd, A host, of golden daffodils” – my heart bursting with happiness, knowing that I’d never go back to Australia to live again.
Daffodils in the Parc Floral, Bois de Vincennes
I’m not keen on the winter months in France however. I don’t like the short days and the grey skies, but once spring comes, it’s all forgotten. Suddenly, the branches on the trees thicken as the new leaves begin to grow and, within a very short space of time, the whole of Paris is vibrant with colour. In the Palais Royal Gardens, beneath my windows, the first signs of spring are the magnolia trees. There are four of them, in the garden beds next to the fountain.
I always plant window boxes in November with a mixture of bulbs in pinks and blues and mauves so that they will come into bloom one after the other. First come the crocuses, then the little grape hyacinths. Next come the big, blue strong-smelling hyacinths and after that, the tulips. That’s the signal to go to Monet’s garden. For years, I didn’t go because I was always told there were too many people. What a waste!
Magnolia in the Palais Royal Gardens
Now we go every spring and summer. You just have to get the timing right. At lunch time, there are no groups and not much of a queue at all. You can even buy a double ticket at the impressionist museum next door (now part of the Orsay Museum) and avoid the queues altogether! The wonderful thing about Monet’s garden is that they import all their tulips from the Netherlands and renew them every year. They are absolutely splendid!
Another place to go in spring, particularly in April, is the Jardin des Plantes in Vincennes. The daffodils run wild and there are endless beds of tulips. But the real stars are the camelias and rhododendrons and azaleas. Masses and masses of different colours – pinks and purples, mauves and oranges. And in May, you might even catch the peacocks spreading their tails and preening in front of excited visitors.
Rhododendrons in the Parc Floral, Bois de Vincennes
Our favourite place of all is the Parc de Sceaux, just to the south of Paris and easily accessible by RER. There is an enormous grove of Japanese cherry trees. I don’t think I have the words to describe just how wonderful it is. It’s like a mass of colour enveloping you. Thick clusters of pink blossoms as far as you can see. They don’t bloom for long so you have to watch the signs around Paris – the prunus trees come into flower at about the same time, in the first half of April – then dash out there as soon as you can!
Image credit: Rosemary Kneipp