Smoking may be banned indoors in France, but the sidewalk cafés and parks are all still full of people intent on stinking up the fresh air around them. Happily, this year the Mairie de Paris opened up what was once the mayor’s private gardens at Hôtel de Ville to the general public every weekend and holidays. And it’s a strictly non-smoking garden!
The Jardin de l’Hôtel de Ville, renamed Jardin des Combattants Espagnols de la Nueve in March to honor the Spanish Catalan combatants who were the first liberation troops to arrive at the Hôtel de Ville in August 1944 (merci Janet for this extra bit of information), were once right outside the mayor’s private apartments at the City Hall. Under former Mayor Delanoë these private quarters were replaced with a daycare and nursery school. But since the gardens aren’t used on weekends and holidays when the kids aren’t there, the current mayor Anne Hidalgo decided in January to allow the public access on those days.
At just 1600² it’s not a huge garden, but it is a lovely place for a stroll and a break from the crowds outside. There are azaleas and rose bushes, boxwood hedges and gorgeous creeping wisteria winding its way along the railings of the staircase leading to the building. There is a large statue of Etienne Marcel (the city’s provost of merchants, the closest thing to a mayor Paris had in the 14th century) overlooking the Quai Hôtel de Ville (whose traffic you can hear, but not see) and on the Hôtel de Ville are statues of prominent historical figures such as the 19th-century novelist George Sand.
At the far end of the gardens is a small playground for the kids, and the city is supposedly going to add a chicken coop and rabbit hutch sometime this year. In addition to smoking, other things banned from this tiny garden are ball games, walking on the grass, alcoholic beverages, and dogs. The garden entrance is at the southwest corner of the Hôtel de Ville, facing the Seine. The gardens open at 9am and close depending on the season between 5pm and 8:30pm.
If there are other gardens in Paris where smoking isn’t allowed that I haven’t heard about, let me know; it’s a wonderful trend I hope spreads to all of the public green spaces!
If you like gardens and want to discover the city’s lesser-known community gardens, don’t miss this month’s Fête de la Nature from May 20-24 in locations all over the city. Some examples:
– May 23-24: Vegetable Festival at the Halle Pajol, esplanade Nathalie-Sarraute, 18th (M° Marx Domroy or La Chapelle) with concerts, games, and the local AMAP present. Free entry.
– May 24th: Jardins du Ruisseau (110 bis, rue du Ruisseau, 18th, M° Porte de Clignancourt). From noon-7pm, visits of the chicken coop, seed exchanges, garden workshops and because it’s France, “debates”. Free entry, probably helps to understand French.
– May 31st: The Chai de Bercy in Bercy Park (12th, M° Bercy or Cour St-Emilion), there will be a “Troc Main Verte”, or garden seed and plantling exchange, from 10:30am-12:30pm, free entry.
Stay tuned for other events around Paris on the Secrets of Paris Calendar