Early this morning a fine mist hung over Place des Vosges while the air in the surrounding streets was crisp and dry. As the sun warmed the lawns and trees of the square, you could almost see them breathe.
The leaves on the lime trees are still a fresh, spring green but they cast solid shadows now, in place of the strange, underwater, green shade of a week ago. The horse chestnut trees grouped around the central statue form a shady island in a sea of sun lit lawns.
Generally known by the name of the Place, this green space is technically Square Louis XIII. A garden was first established here in 1682, replacing a sandy open space formerly used for cavalcades and tournaments. Allées of lime trees were planted in 1783; destroyed at the Revolution, the garden was reestablished in the nineteenth century and renovated again in 1976, when the present trees were planted.
The square is perfectly symmetrical in the classic French style, with diagonal paths leading from the centre to four identical fountains, but it is far from a sterile museum piece. Rather stylish, stainless steel and timber climbing frames are hidden in one of the lime allées and sunken, stone edged rectangles enclose sand pits for the smallest children. As in most Paris parks, the lawns are out of bounds during their winter ‘repose’ but from April to October they are open to picnickers and sunbathers. The square is probably the best known tourist destination in the Marais; it is also a neighbourhood park in the best local tradition.