One perfect day
Paris offers many options for a beautiful day, but for Sandra the perfect early summer’s day in Paris must include roses, thousands of them!
The massive park that is the breathing lung of Paris is the Bois de Boulogne. It’s a place for Parisians to relax, stroll, cycle, boat and picnic. It’s the home of the racing club of France, an outdoor theatre for Shakespearean performances, and Roland Garros and the French Tennis Open. But what draws me is the Jardins de Bagatelle.
Jardins de Bagatelle. Photo - photolibrary.com
We arrive early in the morning and wait for the gates to open at 10am. We’ve come to visit the rose garden at Bagatelle, one of the most famous rose gardens in the world. It’s early June and I am hoping the weather has been warm enough to bring on the roses. Good timing is essential as the roses flower for just a month, then it’s all over for another year. Just inside the gate is a huge philadelphus so the sweet orange blossom fragrance wafts around us as we wait in the lovely early morning.
The first thing we see as we walk through the gate is the little, pale-pink chateau and its elegant Orangerie. In 1775 this estate was owned by Compte d’Artois, who built the miniature chateau, called Bagatelle, for his sister-in-law, Queen Marie Antoinette. It’s now open to the public and makes a fine backdrop for the rose garden, which was created much later, in 1907.
Orangerie, Bagatelle. Photo - photolibrary.com
A formal garden fronts the chateau and the full length of one side border is planted with peonies, which we have caught in the flush of full flower. What a sight!
Beyond the chateau is a romantic, English-style park with lake, bridge, follies, and huge mature trees including an enormous copper beech. But time is precious so we head back past the stables (which is now a top-notch restaurant where umbrellas, chairs and tables are being set for lunch) and along the old brick walled garden covered in climbing roses and clematis.
We step down into the iris garden, enclosed with tall green hedges and jammed full of tall bearded iris in full flower. There’s a water rill running through the centre planted with Japanese water iris. It’s a breath-taking sight. But the highlight remains the rose garden. As we walk back up the slope we can smell the perfume before we see the roses.
For first time visitors the sight of hundreds of thousands of rose blooms is quite astonishing. There are no other flowers in the rose garden, just thousands of roses, beautifully laid out in beds edged with box (buxus).
The little chateau, and orangerie, were gifts for Queen Marie-Antoinette from her brother-in-law. Photo - Sandra Ross
The garden is the brainchild of Jean-Claude Nicholas Forestier who designed it in the true French formal style. Monsieur Forestier organized the first international competition for new roses in 1907 and this prestigious event has been held here every June since.
Today the garden is planted with nine thousand roses of more than a thousand varieties. There are modern roses as well as old roses and species roses. Roses are planted in a variety of ways: on swags, up pillars, over arbours. There are lessons here about growing and training roses that have rose-lovers scrawling notes, sketching details and taking plenty of pictures.
The decorative iron pillars are multi-planted with up to five plants on each pillar. The result is a staggering quantity of bloom. To a rose lover this is paradise. At the far end of the roserie a long timber arbour supports more climbing roses. Rose canes are tied to their supports; pillar, arbour or chain with twisted willow stems. This ancient technique is decorative and biodegradable.
An elevated pavilion at the back of the garden gives an overview to allow you to fully appreciate the spectacle.
The roses at Bagatelle are laid out in box-edged beds. Those that grow on pillars, arbours or chains, are attached to their supports with twisted willow stems; much more aesthetically pleasing than platic plant ties! Photo - Sandra Ross
Sated by the sights and the fragrance of the roses, it’s now time for a different kind of sensory pleasure: lunch. There are charming dining options both within the grounds of Bagatelle and in the Bois, but we decide to drive the short distance into the heart of Paris to the ‘Etoile’, the Arc de Triomphe. Here, at the western end of the Champs Elysees, you can take the underground route (wise move as the traffic is chaotic) into the centre of the Arch itself to see the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the eternal flame.
Just off the Place de l’Etoile is a classic bistro with pretty cream rattan chairs and crisp linen tablecloths frequented by businesspeople and older Parisian ladies in immaculate outfits and recent coiffures, who nurse tiny lap dogs, some wearing diamante collars! The menu is limited but classy, and my favourite is the goat’s cheese salad made with a cheese from Rocadour called Cabacou.
After lunch we may wander down the Champs Elysees a bit to the Guerlain perfume house to buy a bottle of Jardins des Bagatelles, created by the fourth generation parfumier of the Guerlain family, Jean-Paul Guerlain in 1983. A stop at the Opera would be perfect not only to admire its classic architecture and fine statues, but to explore Galleries la Fayette just opposite with its exquisite, stained glass domed roof, and great shopping. Later a stroll through the Tuilleries Gardens takes us toMusée de l'Orangerie, where we can sit in front of Claude Monet's original water lily paintings.
More places to see roses around Paris
Roseraie de L’Hay-les-Roses is a must for anyone who loves roses; again good timing is essential. This garden demonstrates the decorative qualities of climbing roses and shows how to grow and train them on swags, over pergolas and up pillars. It’s part of a large public park in the suburb, L’Hay-les-Roses, 8kms south of central Paris, open from May 7 – September 21, 10am – 8pm.
L'Hay les Roses. Photo - photolibrary.com
Domaine Saint Jean de Beauregard, is a beautiful kitchen garden (part of a picturesque chateau), with a walled garden of ancient rosy bricks festooned with roses and clematis. It’s the passion of Madame de Cureil who grows sensational roses, as well as vegetables. It’s in the countryside 45 minutes south of central Paris, and is open from 2-6pm from mid-March to mid-November.
Saint Jean de Beauregard. Photo - Linda Ross
Two hour’s drive northwest of Paris at Giverny is the flower garden of Claude Monet. With Monet’s pretty pink and green-shuttered house in the background, it’s a breathtaking sea of intensively planted flowers. The flowerbeds run in parallel up to the house, each one 50m long and 2m wide with plenty of roses in the mix. Even Monet’s famous water garden is planted with roses, festooning timber arbours over viewing points across the lake. It’s open from April 1 to October 31, every day except Monday from 9.30-6pm.
Giverny. Photo - photolibrary.com
Where we stay
We stay at the Hotel Duminy Vendome in the heart of Paris, across the road from Tuilleries Gardens, the Champs Elysees and the famous Place Vendome and a stone’s throw from La Louvre and Musee d’Orsay. www.hotelduminyvendome.com
Come with us
Ross Tours returns to France, timed to see the rose gardens in full bloom. We start with five nights in Paris, then move on to Bourges, to Tours, to Sarlat in the heart of the Dordogne, then on to Cahors to see the Lot River valley, and we finish in Bordeaux. It’s a fabulous itinerary, why don’t you join us? Call 1800 809 348 or go to www.rosstours.com for details