Cherry blossom time!

Where should you go in Paris when spring has sprung? Mademoiselle Lili has a hot tip: Jardin Albert Kahn outside the gates of Paris. You don’t have to be a gardening pensioner to be enchanted by its treasures.

Getting a visit from your parents has its advantages: you have to consider how to keep them occupied – and that’s when you come across places that most Parisians have never visited. Jardin Albert Kahn is situated in the banlieue (suburbs), which for native Parisians are the equivalent of Sodom and Gomorrah, ghetto and gangsters. Everything outside the city ring road, the périphérique, is ignored with a strange mixture of snobbery and cowardice. You don’t venture there if you really don’t have to. In the case of this destination, however, this is a rather unjustified prejudice. Boulogne-Billancourt is one of the chicer banlieues anyway.

Metro line 10 conveniently takes you there,and in just a few metres you enter a different world, or six different worldsto be precise: Japan, France, England,the Vosges Mountains,the Atlas Mountains and the United States. The four-hectare large gardens are acelebration of the splendour, vegetation and horticulture of all these regions.Brooks babble, insects buzz, birds twitter in this labyrinthine oasis of peaceand aromas. Around the end of April, depending on the weather, the cherryblossoms bloom in bright white or rose pâle, an absolute highlight that I coincidentally hadthe pleasure to experience. With all the coy carp in the water, the Japanesepagodas and the ornate bridges, we instantly felt as if we had been transportedto Kyoto, andit would have been little surprise if geishas with parasols had simply strolledpast us.

Constructed at the end of the 19th century by Jewish banker and philanthropist Albert Kahn, the site is also home to a museum. Among other things, the exhibits include pictures from the collection of world traveller and colour photography pioneer Kahn. It is there that we discover that Kahn used this garden to take strolls with the cleverest minds of his time – from Albert Einstein to Auguste Rodin. Once the richest man in Europe, he died in 1940, following the global economic crisis – in complete impoverishment. His legacy, however, lives on in the exquisitely beautiful plants. Due to renovations and conversions, the museum is currently closed, but the garden is still accessible if you make an advance reservation. The reopening of the museum and regular visitor operations are planned for this year. Until then, I will take the time to exorcise myself of this Parisian snobbery, and take a more frequent look outside the Parisian periphery. After all, in the scorned banlieues there is much to discover. To be continued.

Infos and reservations at: albert-kahn.hauts-de-seine.fr