As I’m writing this, it’s the first day of spring and all I can think about is gardens full of beautiful flowers.
The problem is, I live in a desert and although we have some lovely gardens here, they are mostly planted and landscaped by people all year long, not necessarily appearing naturally. Don’t get me wrong we do have plants and flowers that come to life throughout the seasons, but it’s not quite like the explosion of colours during a European springtime. Spring in Lima is like summer in England, you never quite get what you’re hoping for (i.e. 3 months of continuous sunshine for the latter).
Personally, I’m actually just hoping the weather will change after today, it has been so gloomy and rainy lately and I’m craving a little sunshine!
Luckily, this year I went back to Europe towards the end of spring and managed to see some beautiful examples of this springtime delight, from the rose gardens at Anglesey Abbey and the Botanic Gardens in Cambridge, to the tulips in Amsterdam and finally the gardens of the Musée Rodin in Paris.
The latter of these we visited on a scorching 37 degree day with little wind, but this garden was the perfect escape.
It has large areas of shade filled with interesting sculptures, like The Monument to Victor Hugo, but also areas just to sit, relax and perhaps doze under the tall trees.
Flowers were blooming all over the place.
From creamy oak-leaved hydrangeas and pastel coloured roses to burning bright day lilies. There’s a flower to suit everyone.
The front garden is very well maintained, with perfectly manicured topiaries surrounding ‘The Thinker’, one of Rodin’s most famous sculptures (he’ll pop up again later on…).
However, the back garden, although beautifully presented and landscaped has been allowed to grow a little wilder.
Follow the pathways behind the house, between the lush greenery, to find examples of Rodin’s work dotted all over the place.
You’ll finally end up at the green pond and be able to marvel at the grounds from there. Don’t ask me why the pond is so green, I have no clue!
Beyond the pond, and his Ugolino sculpture (a man who, driven mad by hunger, eats his dead children – nice…), is one of the most tranquil spots to sit and get out of the heat, unless everyone else does it too! There are benches, but just sitting on the grass with the breeze blowing in the trees overhead was the nicest thing on the absolute hottest day I’ve experienced this year.
Next to the tree lined alley are some more of Rodin’s sculptures.
There are many works in this area which are a collection of sculptures made for one final piece ‘The Burghers of Calais’. The burghers (or bourgeois) were a group of wealthy men from the city of Calais who surrendered themselves to save the people of their city when it was under siege by the English during The Hundred Years’ War. Rodin was commissioned to make a monument to these men and he portrayed them about to face their death. Even though their lives were spared in the end he wanted to portray that moment of sacrifice, bravery and suffering. He made individual nude sculptures, then clothed, and then finally all figures in one sculpture to be displayed in Calais itself.
If you look across the back gardens towards the west, you can see the great gilded dome of Les Invalides, the museum’s neighbour, towering over the trees.
Now, I’m pretty sure I’ve saved the best for last, because my favourite piece in the whole garden has to be ‘The Gates of Hell’. While not so pretty in name, it’s absolutely stunning in design and structure. Just take a look for yourself.
I know right. It is utterly incredible. Plus, if you take a closer look you may notice some of his other pieces, ‘The Thinker’ and ‘The Three Shades’, both also made as stand alone sculptures at a later date.
The Thinker, on this sculpture, was known as The Poet (sitting at the top of the doors looking down on hell) and was created to represent Dante, the author, whose work ‘The Divine Comedy‘ had inspired this sculpture. He sits looking pensive about what he witnesses below him in Hell, while above him stand The Three Shades, or the souls of the damned, with their bodies distorted.
This is the stand alone sculpture to see them a little more clearly.
The doors themselves are incredible, depicting the torment of hell, with bodies flailing around, clambering and falling, grabbing hold of each other and trying to escape.
It’s a remarkable piece of art.
The Gates of Hell is back in the front garden of the museum and if you look across the beautifully kept roses and manicured bushes you can see not only Les Invalides, but the Eiffel Tower too.
A beautiful view from the gardens finished our visit, and after feeling hot for far too long, we hopped on a metro and wandered for ice cream at the legendary Berthillon.
A day of walking among the roses was finished with a mindblowingly good raspberry & rose sorbet. I could have eaten about twenty of these, and I probably still would have been melting as quickly as the ice cream!
Well, spring has finally sprung here and I have my fingers crossed for some sunny weather and some beautiful flowers, naturally grown or otherwise!