I spend more time in the Luxembourg Gardens than almost anywhere else in Paris. I love big city gardens. They are like the streets in that they are a meeting ground for all sorts of people, a crossroads where everyone relaxes and spends time together. As I live near the gardens, I start every day there with a morning run. Often I get lapped multiple times by the firefighters who also exercise in the garden. I don’t really know what would happen to Paris if there was a fire, because it seems that all the firefighters are always in the garden, either running, or marching and playing instruments in the firefighter band. During my run I see lots of people walking dogs. Parisians love their dogs. You rarely see strays and even many of the homeless people have little, surprisingly clean, dogs beside them. I also pass the Tai Chi people. At least I think that is what they are doing, because they move to much for it to be yoga. They kind of float through the trees in this odd, but fascinating, rhythmic dance. It looks much easier than running.
I spend many afternoons in the gardens too. Sometimes with peers for a picnic, but often I am there with the little girls. Basically, the Luxembourg gardens are the main social setting if you are 7. Every day as I pick them up they ask to go, and when I say yes, they run off to tell their friends that we will be making an appearance. If we miss it a couple days in a row, you are basically out of the in crowd. The kids have a specific spot in the gardens, not the touristy playground, but the pavilion. I sit on a bench or chair surrounded by lots of other nounous (nannies), most of us foreigners, and let the children run like banshees. It is strange to me, this way of meeting up with friends and playing. It is far from small town get-togethers or play dates. But it is beautiful and surprisingly peaceful to sit in my chair and half read, half wait for one of the girls to start hitting the other, all the while sheltered by leaves slowly turning from green to gold, and surrounded by the sounds of laughter, fountains, and gently plopping chestnuts.