Les Jardins d’ Elysée (Gardens of Elysium)
Greetings from Paris, France! In celebrating “Thanksgiving,” the French have put up Christmas lights and decors on most of the streets. Reasonably so, Thanksgiving is not a French tradition, and what a perfect way to celebrate it than by paving the way for Christmas. Of course, the streets of Paris are not short of tourists with cameras around this time, although I must say that after three months here, taking pictures can sometimes feel a little weird.
Anyway, having reached that part of the semester abroad where it begins to wind down, as we prepare for reading and then exams week, I decided to do something interesting: visit the gardens of the residence of the French president. Also known as the Jardins d’ Elysée (Gardens of the Elysium), the gardens of the president’s residence is open to the public on the last Sunday of every month.
Palais d’ Elysée, named so by the Duchess of Bourbon, Bathilde d’Orléans, who once owned it in 1787, became the official residence of French presidents during the second republic. The property has passed through many hands, from architect Armand-Claude Mollet, its original owner, to Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte (Napoléon III), the first president of France.
While there, I saw several trees and sculptures from North America, Japan, China, and southern Europe. Also too conspicuous to ignore were the palace guards who were dressed in some sort of ceremonial attire. Of course, at the official residence of the president, there must be some secret service guys whose jobs will be to ban anyone who wants to finish off their president. Compared to the palace guards, the secret service guys were less into the public and more into the president. The palace buildings, although modified, retained some of their classical French qualities—the windows, doors, and exterior designs.
The icing on the cake, really, was when François Hollande, the French president, showed up to exchange pleasantries with visitors. He was full of smiles and confidence as he engaged the enthused gathering. Having never seen him in person, getting this close was more than enough for me. It is quite interesting that the visitors (mostly French by the way), irrespective of their political affiliations, were excited to see the president.
I find this a great experience for two reasons: 1, As a person on foreign soil, I love learning the French culture and watching some French citizens celebrate their president, and 2, as a political science student, I enjoy experiencing a little of what French politics is about.