Sunday, 5 April 2015

albert kahn's magnificent gardens

I know it's a museum, but I totally went there for the gardens and it won't take you long to understand why. This might not have been yesterday as the very observant reader will have noticed by the look of the beautiful autumn colours, but now that spring is back it seems to be the perfect time to pay another visit to this incredible place.

These magnificent gardens were bought plot by plot by Albert Kahn. He was born in 1860 with almost nothing & became a very successful banker & one of the richest men in Europe... and then lost everything - even his beloved garden - during the Wall Street crash of 1929 that left him bankrupt. He was a very interesting character & a philanthropist devoting his time & fortune to try & establish universal peace. Secretive to the extreme, we know almost nothing of his private life. He lived alone with his dogs & never founded a family.

The little we do know about him, you will find described in this museum currently running an interesting exhibition called "In search of Albert Kahn", where you will learn - among other interesting facts - that despite his immense fortune he sometimes liked to escape his house to go out in the forest & sleep in the nature.

The 4-hectares gardens were opened to the public in 1936 and have since undergone an important restoration with focus on maintaining it in the spirit of Albert Kahn & the art of gardening as it was in the early 20th century. As I'm still no botanical expert, here's a description of the gardens largely inspired by the museum's website.

First of all there's the atmospherical Japanese garden with a tiny village filled with temples, lanterns & lovely stone paths. From here you will move into the contemporary garden, a tribute to Albert Kahn's life, with azaleas and streams crossed by stone or timber bridges painted in a beautiful red. The bamboo gates, you can see on one of the photos, mark the entrance to the formal French gardens on the left with their stunning greenhouse, orchard & rosary. On the right there's an English garden with green grass, false rock, spruces & a small lily pond surrounded by wild meadow. Just the sound of these words make me dreamy, especially the last part.

There is also a vast forest of conifers (I googled that part. Those are cone-bearing trees like cedars & cypresses) planted on steep, rocky soil as a reproduction of the Vosges Mountains that are located near Kahn's birthplace. Before opening up to the public, this space was devoted to world peace and was visited exclusively by poets, philosophers & kings.... Poets, philosophers & kings. Has a very nice ring to it.

All this can be seen in Boulogne-Billancourt on the outskirts of Paris for the modest sum of 4 euros (free for children under 12). Free entrance for everybody the first Sunday of every month.


Open Tuesday to Sunday from 11am to 6pm (7pm in the summer period running from May 1st till September 30th).

1 comment:

  1. Mercii! C'etait en novembre, quel bel automne on a eu. Hate d'y retourner dans quelques semaines pour voir le jardin aux couleurs du printemps ;-)) Bonne journee!


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