A garden girl in Paris…

(with apologies to John Denver)

Three nights in Paris, bucket loads of rain, cafes, people watching, a bit of shopping, cake eating and champagne drinking too. But also galleries. Lots of them, and I got interested in the gardens attached. How artists, even in the middle of a city, need space. Here are three of them…

  1. Musee Rodin is probably the most famous artist jardin, and even in the drizzle, it’s obvious why it’s so popular.


After Rodin left his works and collections to the nation, this house (where Rodin had been a tenant) became an official museum. I loved finding out that other tenants included the poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, Isabella Duncan, Henri Matisse and Jean Cocteau.


The garden is divided into four main areas, and you’re greeted by an extravagant rose garden which smells just as good as it looks…


The garden is perfect for displaying the monumental sculptures, such as the Burghers of Calais (which I’d seen in London but they looked so different in a gallery). Here I found them unbearably moving

And I learnt quickly to duck and pose so I could photograph the sculptures without catching the other tourists…

… although of course it is impossible to resist some poses…



And now the second garden, a surprise for us this one, is the Musee Delacroix in Rue de Furstenberg. 

IMG_0299The painter lived here for the last few years of his life (he died in 1863), and wonderful to see the view of the garden he would have seen from his studio, although these may be *new* chairs and benches….


But it’s still possible to imagine it as he might have done when he wrote: “My apartment is decidedly charming… Woke up the next day to see the most gracious sun on the houses opposite my window. The view of my little garden and the cheerful appearance of my studio always make me happy.” Even in the rain, and imagining different planting, it was easy to see why. You can see some of his paintings here.

And the last garden is a bit of a cheat because it wasn’t directly connected to a gallery, but it was just round the corner from the Picasso Museum, and was just a delight – Square Georges Cain. 

A beautiful circular design with a bronze statue of Aurore in the centre by the 17th-century sculptor Laurent Magnier. The  gentle planting  is deliberately soothing, and in fact a sign at the entrance says ‘too bright colours would spoil the view of the passer by’. And oh, look, a chess board just waiting for you to play there.

I tried and tried to hear the ‘Le Rossignol Electrique’ by Eric Samakh, a small electronic bird that starts singing whenever the wind blows, but I think it was raining more than windy. I did spot a bit of Parisian beauty rivalry though which got my writing juices flowing. There are archeological relics around the edges of the garden, and I was taken by this beauty – so beautiful that someone has stolen her face…


…. could it possibly be this woman lounging on the exact opposite side of the park, rather smugly holding up a mirror at the perfect angle to catch my faceless goddess. Perhaps if you stand still long enough in this little park then your face will be taken by the mirror thief too…


Eel Art in the Public Garden

IMG_2478This is probably one of the best known views in Britain, the Octagon tower at Ely Cathedral. It’s got special resonance for me, to be honest, because I was at boarding school here and we used the cathedral as a playground, short cut, an everyday part of our lives. It is only now that I’m realising just how lucky that was. And how much it has informed my aesthetic as a writer since.


But it’s another artist I wanted to talk about here. One new to me, and it was a joy to come across her work when I was visiting Ely last weekend. In 2003-2004 Elizabeth-Jane Grose was commissioned to create an Eel trail for Ely (once the Isle of Eels, of course) and as I walked round looking for her work, I fell increasingly in love with the way she obviously had researched her subject, resulting in a beautiful mixture of knowledge, sense of place and also sense of play.

Here is the eel art I found, I could find surprisingly little information online, and when I went to the Tourist Information Office, the woman there mouthed through the window that the office didn’t open until 11, despite the fact that it was 10.55 and pouring with rain outside, so I gave that a miss.

First one was the Eel hive, at the foot of Cherry Hill, next to the Cathedral. From the path running through it, it’s obviously well used and well loved, but could do with a bit of a haircut!


Second, is the Yellow Eel mosaic in Jubilee Gardens. Beautifully sparkling in the brief sunshine, and made up of fragments found in a recent archeological dig.



And then there are the Ely Glaives, outside the  Maltings. These are based on drawings in the museum, and have been used since Anglo Saxon times to catch eels. The shape of the sculpture matches the Octagon tower. Oh how much I was crushing on this artist and this particular body of work by now!



And lastly, my favourite, a special cheer for Elizabeth Cromwell’s seat, outside the Oliver Cromwell museum. Running round it was the recipe for roast eel, taken from Elizabeth Cromwell’s recipe book (also in the museum). I might have sat here forever, if it hadn’t been raining. But hey, this is Ely and you don’t get eels without a bit of rain… which was probably why the tourist officer was going to make me wait. Just so I could appreciate it more. She probably didn’t realise I’d already had years of ‘appreciating’ it in the past.