Sunday, April 18, 2010

I Never Knew the Charm of Spring... Til April in Paris

I'm fresh back from a week-long visit to Paris. I still have that great jet-lag that lets you feel rested upon waking up at 7:30 a.m. (of course the flip side is that I fell asleep at 9:00 p.m. with all the lights on). Regardless, I am up and feeling industrious.

I've been to Paris before, but previously had not had the benefit of touring the city with natives. Forgive the anthropological leaning of this post, but this experience allowed me to begin to understand and try to embrace the rhythms and customs of the town. While I'll never get the double-cheek kiss down (awkward!), it was liberating to sit down and enjoy a coffee, rather than taking it to go on my way elsewhere.

This joie de vivre-type atmosphere was refreshing. But I also noticed a strong vein of formalism and tradition that we seem to lack stateside. (We're a little more rough around the edges and, well, rude.) I noticed this everywhere -- in interactions in shops, in fashion, and, quite surprisingly, in tree pruning (you didn't think I'd be able to tie this in, did you?)! Parisians love square trees. I don't get it, and I cannot find any explanation thus far. Parks are a priority in Paris, and as far as I can tell, this specialized pruning is a part of keeping them neat and tidy. It's the french cuff of urban forestry!

Jardin du Luxembourg


  1. I'm thinking you're on to something with the concept of formality. The English tradition in gardening is Romantic -- the creation of something that looks hypernatural but is of course carefully planned and executed. The French, on the other hand, put the formality that you see in their manners into their gardens as well, and they're not shy about making sure you notice. I like both approaches.

  2. Since this post, I've learned that this pruning practice is called "pleaching."