Photos by Sim Tupa
I have always loved parks ever since I was a child. It is a place of power where people come together to bond and to renew their tired spirits. Haven’t you noticed that parks have this invisible energy field bound by a carpet of green grass below, trees and plants on the sides, open skies above and the air circulating within and without this energy field of healing?
But parks and gardens are not complete without the other equally important elements: people, pets, birds and insects. All of these play an important role in the orchestra of restorative poetry guaranteed to renew every tired soul seeking some respite. Once all these ingredients come together, magic happens and you know that once you enter this special place, you will come out centered and restored.
That was exactly how I felt when we visited Le Jardin de Tuileries, a garden oasis very near the Louvre museum, right in the middle of Paris. To announce this sacred space, there is a small entrance gate that separates the park from the adjacent busy rue de Rivoli. Instead of being carpeted with green grass, the Tuileries is mostly a garden park with gravel to walk on and patches of green grasses with plants and flowers.
As we entered the park, we noticed these group of men playing Petanque, a game which means “feet fixed and planted on the ground” while throwing the hollow metal balls as closely as possible to a smaller wooden ball called “cochonnet” or “piglet.
I stood under the shade of the trees, transfixed and trying to understand the objective of the game. I remember wondering why the balls were not made any lighter so they could roll better on the sand where the men were playing. Even if I didn’t understand the game and the shouted language coming from the men, I could understand that they were having a great time based on their sudden shouts and bursts of laughter.
First they would secure both feet firmly on the gravel, slightly shifting their weight from one foot to the other, then focus on the target with a bite on the lip as if this would carry the metal nearer to the “piglet”.
They would then release the metal ball in an upward throwing movement. Someone would approach the balls to measure how the player did. I did not exactly understand the mechanics of the game but what was fun to watch was their complete focus on the game, their facial expressions when they would let go of the ball, the hush before the ball landed on the sandy soil, the French grunts of cheers or disappointment when they find out their score. The whole drama of it was both very entertaining and engaging. And when they noticed that they were being observed by moi, they started to wave their hands at me and enjoyed the attention I was giving them. I had been found out, it was time to leave.
The Tuileries Garden was envisioned by Queen Catherine Medici in 1564, inspired by the beautiful gardens of her native Florence. It is named the Tuileries garden because at that time in Paris, the area was abundant of tuileries, or workshops that produced tiles used for roofing of buildings. She hired landscape architect Bernard de Carnesse to create this garden whose purpose was to hold lavish festivities and parties to honour visiting ambassadors and dignitaries. The Tuileries we see today however, is a reconstructed garden from another architect Pierre Le Notre who was hired to redesign the Tuileries in 1664. In 1667, the Tuileries became the first royal garden to be opened to the public .
I continued to stroll towards the inner part of the garden and found this huge circular fountain surrounded by sunbathers reclining on green reclinable chairs. Some were sleeping with books covering their faces. Some were munching on their late lunch while keeping an eye on their children playing nearby, while others were busy chatting with friends while holding drinks in their hands. Everybody had their own agenda, and time didn’t seem to exist. As for me, the afternoon heat was too much so I stayed by the trees where I knew I wouldn’t wilt like a flower.
( Here I am braving the searing sun for a photograph, a very committed runner in the background burning some calories. Each to his/her own. )
As I walked around the gravelled path I saw many sculptures like these in the garden.
These are the handsome, compactly trimmed inverted cone trees in the Tuileries Gardens, lined up like giant emerald guards, protecting and silently watching the pilgrims from many areas in the park. I was so happy these trees were abundant inside because they provided thick foliage and coolness from the searing heat. Every now and then, I would see some old gentlemen asleep, reclining on benches, mouths half-open and not caring if they were snoring aloud. Such was the beauty of the Tuileries. You come here, you pick a chair, a patch of grass, you sleep, you read, meet friends to chat and drink with, and no one minds what you do, no one disturbs you.
After an hour or two of rest, I stood up and left this oasis, restored, a brand new person ready to go back to the life I had temporarily left for a few hours.