France the French way


Gardens in Paris: Part 2

Posted: 2011-05-02

In the heart of the bustling Latin Quarter  overlooking Notre Dame Cathedral lies a tiny snippet of tranquility.

On a lazy Sunday afternoon I go there with a two euro ham sandwich and a chilled can of Lipton’s iced tea to reflect on what has been an eventful week. I take a much-needed swig out of my can and look over at the bordering church of St Julien le Pauvre, thinking of all the people it must have seen or sheltered over time. I sit there under a leafy green umbrella, simply watching the world go by. A father plays with his two adorable, impeccably-dressed toddlers while his wife cradles their new bundle of joy in her arms in the shade of an evergreen. A homeless man shakes a plastic cup in hope someone will stop and drop something in it, or perhaps even just smile. A young woman sits on the park bench next to me, diligently studying her Spanish notes, groaning with frustration as she checks the answers at the back of her book.

A view of the rose window of Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral from the Rene Viviani Gardens

This is truly a place where anyone regardless of age, race and religion can come to find a moment of peace in Paris’ continuous hive of activity and excitement. This is the Square René Viviani, and this is the ideal place to continue our French Way Spring Special . Located on the busy Quai de Montebello, in between the exquisite Rue Galande and Rue de Julien le Pauvre, Square René Viviani is the perfect ‘pozzy’ to reflect, relax, and people-watch. Named in honor of René Viviani, the first minister of labor of France in the early 1900s, it is hard to believe this little square has only been open to the public since 1928 – relatively new by Paris standards! In fact, it was originally a Merovingian cemetery, but during the dramatic nineteenth century renovations of the St Julien le Pauvre church, tombs were dug up from around the churchyard; many of them now displayed at the Musée Carnavalet .

A view of the Rene Viviani Garden, right by the Seine River and Notre Dame Cathedral

What a clever move this was turning this into an area that everyone can come and enjoy! The small grassy patches provide idyllic spots for picnic lunches or dinners, with sublime views of the Notre Dame de Paris in all her glory and splendor. Through the arches of red roses in the centre of the square, you find yourself looking at perhaps the most celebrated rose window in architectural history – a truly appropriate way of mirroring Notre Dame’s beauty.

In the heart of the square lies a unique bronze fountain, erected in 1995 by French sculptor Georges Jeanclos . Although this fountain is not everyone’s ‘cuppa tea’ it cleverly depicts the legacy of St Julien le Pauvre, the patron saint of travelers, reminding us that wherever we’re from, we’re welcome and will be cared for in this little corner of the world. Next time you come to Paris, come and sit here and enjoy another pace of life.

Square René Viviani is open every day until 9.30pm (hours may vary depending on season.), and even has WIFI!

(Article and photos by my daughter Sarah Reese)



This is the Georges Jeanclos sculpture at the Rene Viviani Gardens - one of the most un-noticed, yet beautiful sculptures in Paris!