France the French way


April in Paris

Posted: 2011-04-28

In the front row of my small school jazz band, I tapped my foot to the beats of Vernon Duke’s timeless jazz standard April in Paris . I thought of all the musical greats who had done the same thing over time; Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, and Frank Sinatra, to name but a few. So what was it that enticed so many of these musical legends into singing this particular song? Was it the beat? The lyrics? No. It was, quite simply, the joy of singing about the most beautiful time of the year in the most beautiful corner of the world. In the mere space of a few minutes, you can get transported to a tree-lined avenue city, where flowers bloom, where children play, where the sky is painted blue, and where sunlight pours a large dose of happiness into your soul. This is April in Paris. 

To celebrate April in Paris this year, we will be bringing you a French Way Spring Special. Over the next couple of weeks we will be exposing three of the leafy treasure chests of the City of Light, which will no doubt inspire you to get on the next plane out of your city, fill your picnic baskets with French baguettes and a creamy blue, and soak up the spring delights that Paris has to offer. It is also perfect opportunity to subscribe to the French Way Blog if you haven’t already done so to ensure you know exactly where to go to discover the natural gems of this much-loved city.  

To kick off our Spring Special, we have one of the main botanic gardens in Paris, the Jardin des Plantes. Tucked away in the idyllic fifth arrondissement , lies twenty-eight hectares of pure horticultural magic. Only a fifteen minute walk away from the busy Saint Michel area and a stone’s throw away from the spectacular Paris Mosque , the gardens are without of a doubt one of the precious gems in Paris’ impressive crown. 



  • A sea of coquelicots (poppies) at the Jardin des Plantes


A little less manicured and ‘posh’ than the Luxembourg Gardens, the Jardin des Plantes has a special familial, friendly atmosphere which welcomes people of all ages. You feel as though you can get right up close to nature, rather than being shunted away from it by pristine borders, and impeccably mown lawns. Meandering down the endless tree-lined passages, I felt enveloped by nature and an unusual sense of stillness and pause in Paris’ relentless beat. In fact, apart from the rare glimpse of a modern sky rise in the distance, and the sound of a distant siren, you truly forget you are in the heart of such a bustling city. 



  • Spring Flowers in the Jardin des Plantes, Paris


The Jardin des Plantes has something there for everyone. The property houses the prestigious Ecole de Botanique (Botany School), which trains some of the top botanists in Europe. The budding botanists construct demonstration gardens throughout the year, including an extensive herb garden which runs through the middle of the gardens, and has some of the best rhubarb I have ever seen! Bordering the Jardin des Plantes are its four museums; the Grande Galérie de l’Evolution, the Mineralogy Museum, the Entomology Museum, and the Paleontology Museum, which Friends’ Ross Gallagher would drool over. Throw in a few tropical hothouses, a unique art-deco style winter garden, a flawlessly crafted labyrinth, and a small zoo for the kids and everyone is happy!

A well-known composer was once asked to comment on the jazz favorite April in Paris. He replied, “…I'll reduce the praise to 'perfectly wonderful,' or else say that if it's not perfect, show me why it isn't." I thought about this comment as I sat on a bench in the garden overlooking an intoxicating sea of colored poppies in the glorious spring sun reading Stevan Eldred-Griggs’ spectacular novel Oracles and Miracles. If this is not “perfectly wonderful”, then I honestly don’t know what is. “April in Paris, what have you done to my heart?”

Please note: Admission to the gardens is free, but admission charges to apply for the museums and the menagerie. For more information see the official Jardin des Plantes website

Article and Photos by Sarah Reese

  • Tropical Hothouse in the garden grounds
  • There's something there for everyone!
  • Jardin des Plantes - celebrating biodiversity