Since 2005, Amy Kupec Larue, doyenne of French gardens, has guided horticultural aficionados on botanical tours to idyllic public and private gardens in France and Italy. A confirmed rose lover, Amy is a permanent jury member of the prestigious Bagatelle Rose Commission.
For Bonjour Paris, Ms Kupec Larue explains what the city means to her.
Where were you born?
Kingston, by the Hudson River, New York State, on the edge of the Catskill Mountains.
What brought you to Paris?
France always fascinated me, beginning with ballet classes (pliés, jetés, arabesques, etc.) and the stories my grandparents shared about their travels through Europe. I put myself through school working in restaurants, kept the latest copy of Bon Appetit magazine on my nightstand, and seriously toyed with becoming a chef. Then, in 1986 I met a handsome Frenchman and my eyes were truly opened to this wonderful country.
What’s your favorite Paris season?
All four! I rejoice with spring, celebrate the city when it’s devoid of Parisians in summer, savor the colors and light in fall, then, during winter I cherish the thoughts of the above – looking forward to the next round.
If you were a tree in Paris, which species would you be?
I’d be a sugar maple, native to eastern North America, sturdy enough to climb year round and wonderfully flamboyant in the fall.
Which Paris garden inspires you?
I have huge respect for the enormous amount of work, dedication and knowledge are represented within Paris’s botanical gardens (Jardin de Plantes, Bagatelle, Auteuil, Arboretum and Parc Floral). However my sense of “wow” actually comes from the beauty and resilience of Mother Nature and I can spot it everywhere I look.
For you, what’s the most romantic Paris garden?
It’s a state of mind, not one place, so any garden where you can pull two chairs together can be romantic. I do prefer the smaller gardens for a tête à tête, those surrounding the museums are often an excellent choice – Balzac’s home in the 16th offers a view of the Eiffel Tower, as does the Allée des Cygnes Arboretum in the middle of the Seine. Eugène Delacroix’s garden is tucked behind his studio in the 6th arrondissement, and the Montmartre museum on the rue Corot in the 18th is also an enchanting setting, overlooking the vineyards.
What’s your pick for a romantic Paris picnic spot?
The Empress’s kiosque overlooking the Rose Garden at Parc de Bagatelle in the Bois de Boulogne.
What’s your favorite café/bar/restaurant?
I love to slip into the Jardin d’Hiver at the Hôtel de Crillon in the 8th for a hot chocolate. The setting is beautiful and the beverage is divine.
What’s the most important thing you discovered in Paris during lockdown?
Due to the lockdown laws and restrictions I became aware of many things I had taken for granted, especially visiting with family and friends.
What is your Paris secret?
Parisians are late risers. Having worked as a florist for over 20 years, I became used to going to Rungis, the wholesale market, at the crack of dawn, returning around 7 am. This meant I had the luxury of deserted streets and beautiful bridges all to myself.
A special Paris memory?
I remember riding to language class at the Sorbonne on the 84 bus and having a “eureka” moment in a conversation with a total stranger – I understood everything she said to me and it dawned on me that I really could make my life here.
What do you love about your job?
I am very lucky, through my work as a florist and as a tour guide I have met hundreds of interesting and wonderful people. Occasionally, clients become dear friends and I am still in touch with several brides whose weddings I decorated. Serving four ambassadors at the U.S. Embassy has also been an honor.
Who is your favorite florist?
Christian Tortu was my mentor when I arrived in France, and today I like to shop at either of Eric Chauvin’s boutiques in the 7th or in Neuilly.
Do you have a garden of your own in Paris?
Yes, I couldn’t live without a patch of dirt of my own to play in!
For more information about Amy’s guided tours and presentations, visit her website: www.gardenguideparis.com
Lead photo credit : Photo © Amy Kupec-Larue