Transplanted from the Northeast to South Florida, we luxuriated in the freshness of spring when we visited Paris and Amsterdam in May.
After the hustle of checking the sights off the list in Paris, it was heaven to wander through the Jardin du Luxembourg along with every other combination of families on a Sunday afternoon. The beehives and its neighboring the orchard have supported each other for more than 150 years. Flowers ran chaotic and dignified, lively accents to the carefully shaped hedges, while statuary looked sternly on.
While loads of fresh green grass beckoned, Parisians observe the rule my sister and I followed when we lived in Italy in the 60’s: no one walks on the lawns. Adults sit on the metal chairs provided on the stone walkways and children play with the pebbles.
We saw only one huge transgression: a sprawl of people laying out picnic blankets on two stretches of grass bordered by manicured trees. When I asked a passing parks employee if they were there for a reason, he said: “Yes. Because there it is allowed.”
The design around the Palais du Luxembourg is appropriately formal. It was built for Maria de Medici, the mother of Louis XIII, and currently houses the French Senate, the Parliament’s upper house. The charming boat pond seemed to have just the right number of vessels, complete with guiding sticks.
Everywhere, another scene: a high school jazz band played Big Band numbers in a gazebo as an appreciative audience looked on, including this woman who could have modeled for an artist of another era; a parade of children riding ponies; a couple quietly playing chess.
And everywhere, statues.
A week later, we found ourselves in Amsterdam’s Vondelpark, a sprawling tumble of peace and quiet just outside the canal rings and a short stroll from the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum. After the structure and intensity of Paris, we appreciated Amsterdam’s chill vibe. People were all over the lawn stretching along the Museumplein. A stream meandered through the park, bordered by wild irises.
And babies in Amsterdam are free to go barefoot and to get their clothes dirty.