Gardens are, as they always were, a retreat. Centuries ago, humans retreated from the wildness of nature, seeking protection from “lions, tigers and bears.” Today the garden is a retreat from the wildness of 21st-century life. Encouraged to shelter inside because of the pandemic it seems the world is looking out a window wondering what the way forward will be.
Versailles: Most recognized for the grand palace, the grounds play more than a supporting role; with 2100 acres of gardens, sculptures, and fountains.
Visiting Versailles is overwhelming; many people focus on exploring the palace and briefly visit the gardens. I did just the opposite, beginning my 15-hour day in the gardens. Even then, I walked only 12 miles of the garden’s 30 miles of pathways. I know I missed seeing so much of it.
Can you be dazzled by vegetables? In France, indeed you can.
Villandry is one of the most famous gardens in all of France. While Monet’s Giverny may be more familiar and Versailles more historic, Villandry is more fantastic for what it does with plants. Located some three hours southwest of Paris in the Loire Valley, Villandry is best known for the carpet style bedding plants in its famous kitchen garden. Villandry dazzles you with vegetables.
Ask just about anyone in Paris how to get to the Arch, and they will quickly direct you to Arc de Triomphe, even if you specifically ask for the Arc of Defense. Visitors to the city of light focus on the iconic memorial commissioned by Napoleon in 1805 to celebrate his victory at Austerlitz* but my destination was the Arc of Defense.