Taking a Picture of Paris in the Jardin des Plantes


I took this photo on a frigid May day in Paris in the Jardain des Plantes, just before I had dinner at the Mosque cafe with friends. Paris explodes with flowers and green in the spring, blooms into a whole new kind of place. It was raining.

My hands shook taking these photos, so desperate to capture the colors and shapes of that rose garden. Because roses are so precise, so strong and structured, and they disappear so quickly. They demand that you photograph them well, and the best I can say is that I tried.

My sister arrived that night, and she was sending me text message after text message from Charles de Gaulle while I stood in that garden, while my phone’s battery power dwindled, while I was running a few minutes late to meet my friends at the cafe, all because of these roses, because I couldn’t leave them behind. Because I needed something to help me remember. Balancing an umbrella on one shoulder, my phone buzzing in my pocket, the camera shaking in my hands, water droplets hitting the lens.

It was a moment of four thousand things. And I was so cold.

Just outside the garden on the Quai Saint-Bernard, the sidewalks were slick and wet with rain, but they shone bright like mirrors, too, bouncing the reflection of trees and fences—green and black like a shivering watercolor—back up at the sky. I don’t think such a thing could happen anywhere but in Paris in May, on the Quai Saint-Bernard in the rain with a camera full of photos of roses. Those bright reds and oranges and pinks on a muted gray palate, they overrode everything else—the cold and the rain and the phone—for just those few minutes.

Go there: The Jardin des Plantes is located in the 5eme and is part of Paris’s natural history museum, the equally awesome Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle. Take the metro to either Jussieu or Gare d’Austerlitz. The roses bloom in May. Entrance is free.

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