Wooden Sailboats in Luxembourg Gardens
Jardin du Luxembourg – Paris, France
Before summer gets away from us all I really wanted to share a little bit about our time spent at Luxembourg Gardens in Paris.
A special attraction within the gardens is to visit the Grand Bassin. There, I very much wanted my children to experience pushing little antique wooden boats around this “pond” in Luxembourg Gardens. Not boats of their own, but boats made by a French man, Cement Paudeau. This Parisian tradition began in 1927 making it now over 90 years old! Paudeau had a passion for wooden boats and his wife made the sales for the boats he hand carved — with the idea of renting them to children visiting the pond they quickly became a fixture of the gardens.
Voiliers Paudeau or Paudeau’s sailboats
The Luxembourg gardens were inspired by the Boboli Gardens in Florence, & created upon the initiative of Queen Marie de Medici in 1612. The gardens, which cover 25 acres of land, are split into French gardens and English gardens. Between the two, lies a geometric forest and a large pond. There is also an orchard with a variety of old and forgotten apples, an apiary for you to learn about bee-keeping (you can learn more about the bees in this Blog by searching French Bee Hives) and greenhouses with a collection of breathtaking orchids and a rose garden.
As you first walk into the gardens you immediately see the French Senate building (or Palace is a better word since at one time it was the royal residence of the regent Marie de Médicis, mother of Louis XIII of France) the Grand Bassin duck pond immediately in front of it. This is where children of all ages (and also some adults) are pushing these adorable little wooden boats around with a very long stick.
One has to rent the boats from a rental cart. Finding the cart(s) with the boats is not difficult – sometimes there are three carts to rent from scattered about the surround of the pond.
This tradition of the P’tits Voiliers (little sailing) continues today with the exact same boats from Padeaus era, repainted of course with new sails, but other than that they have not changed. The boats are rented 3.50 Euros for 30 minutes. And, another surprising fact: The boats are rented on the honor system … no ID required.
As you can see from many of my pictures, it had been drizzly and cloudy the day we were there, even a bit chilly when there was a cloud cover, but the sun did eventually shine as the day wore on — That is one thing about visiting Europe (in this case, France) always be prepared for a change in the weather. It would behoove one to carry a travel umbrella and a water proof or repellent jacket with a hood.
However, even with the unforeseen weather changes our 12 year old son, Reese, had a wonderful and fun time playing and chasing his little rented boat. And mind you, the bassin is very large! You get in a great deal of exercise running to the other side to catch your boat! This view of the pond gives you an idea as to how large it is.
The day we were at the gardens it was windy so the boats were moving along quite nicely which meant we ran to the other side OFTEN.
Here, Reese is getting ready to put his boat in the water for the first time.
The boats are not motor or battery driven. The children are given a long stick and they chase the boats around the pond at the will of the wind and a push of the stick. Quite a delight to watch. Parents lounge in the Luxembourg Chairs as their children dance and prance around the pond chasing their boat.
Placing the stick with the rubber tip in a little notch on the boat helps you control shoving it off into the pond.
And Off it goes…….
Our fourteen year old son, Bryce, also gave the boat a push. Even a teenager found the experience to be a bit of fun!
The US boat sailed beautifully.
It is a great way to have an interactive experience with a French tradition rather than just looking at something or reading about it. There are not to many children, their parents or grandparents in Paris who have not played with these boats!
The boats are NEVER for sale, but boats like the ones found in the gardens are available in many toy stores in Paris. One such store is the NemiNemo (1 rue de Cassette, 6th, near the gardens).
And, finally after a round of good fun we return the boat. It was a great day at Luxembourg Gardens.
“Do things you enjoy with people you love. Don’t wait to do something because you have preconceived ideas about how life is going to be. Everything in life is always changing. Make life happen. Don’t let life happen to you.”
“….if you have the chance, maybe even float a boat across the bassin at Luxembourg….Simple pleasures in life are often times the most remembered and enjoyed.”
La vie est belle – Life is Beautiful
Au Revoir! A La Prochaine!!