Quenching my Wanderlust at Jardin Albert Kahn

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Quenching my Wanderlust at Jardin Albert Kahn

Paris has the gift of surprising you at every corner, but little did I know when I hopped on metro line 10, heading west to Boulogne-Billancourt, that at the end of that short trip, to reach the recently reopened Jardin Albert Kahn, I’d find myself transported back in time and across the oceans, all the way to Japan.

Albert Kahn was born in Alsace in 1860, in a modest Jewish family. Very bright, he moved to Paris to apprentice as a bank clerk, while continuing his studies in the evening, under the guidance of philosopher Henri Bergson. While furthering his position within the company, he quietly pursued his own investments, so successfully that in 1898 he founded his own investment company.

Jardins Albert Kahn

Credit © Sarah Bartesaghi Truong

All the while, he moved in the most intellectually stimulating and progressive Parisian circles, and founded several charitable foundations focusing on cultural exchanges as a means to avert conflict. An avid traveler himself, he discovered Japan in the course of a round-the-world trip, documented by thousands of photographs and dozens of film reels.

Residing all his adult life in Boulogne-Billancourt, over the course of several years he purchased various plots of land around his mansion, with the aim of recreating the more and the less exotic gardens he had visited in the course of his travels.

Jardins Albert Kahn

Credit © Sarah Bartesaghi Truong

Sadly, 1929 and the stock market crash had the better of Kahn’s fortune, but thankfully his gardens survived him and his riches– offering us today a peaceful corner of Japan on our Parisian doorstep.

In the early hours of the morning, when the heat is not unbearable yet, I wandered along the meandering alleys. The various shades of green stood out against the red of the elegantly arched wooden bridge crossing a small stream, my steps accompanied by the soothing sound of the waterfall in the background. The Japanese garden offers both traditional points of view but also a more modern take on the art of oriental garden design. It might be that there were no other visitors while I was there, but at any moment I expected to turn around and see a Japanese geisha walking by.

Jardins Albert Kahn

A Japanese inspired bridge in the garden. Credit © Sarah Bartesaghi Truong

As I progressed, I suddenly found myself back in France, exploring a rose garden and an orchard, their severe geometric lines softened by the pink of the flowers and the pale yellow of the apples reaching maturity. The contrast with the exoticism of what I had seen before felt almost too strong, so I hurried along to the English garden, where the lines are gentler and more poetic.

Jardins Albert Kahn

The rose garden. Credit © Sarah Bartesaghi Truong

The majestic hothouse, its Victorian lines reminding me of the Crystal Palace, was still closed for refurbishment. It will soon welcome a café and temporary exhibitions, but in the meanwhile the boarded up windows displayed a portrait of Monsieur Kahn (he looks like a tropical explorer version of Santa Claus) and pictures of a bygone world, captured in the course of his travels.

My journey ended in the forest, monumental blue firs towering above me, birds chirping the only sound I could hear, even if the city is just a stone’s throw away. I found a corner to sit down, grateful for the cool shade on this hot August morning, but most of all absorbing the extraordinary sense of peace exuding from this place.

Jardins Albert Kahn

The stream. Credit © Sarah Bartesaghi Truong

For Albert Kahn, traveling to remote countries to discover new cultures and traditions, was the surest way to avoid conflict, in a world that had just witnessed the greatest carnage ever with the Great War. Exploring the extraordinary gardens he created reminded me of the transformative power of travel, and that resonated all the more poignantly in this not-so-normal summer of travel restrictions.

“I only ask one thing of you, that you keep your eyes wide open,” wrote Mr Kahn to one of his protégés, whose study-travels to the Far East he was sponsoring. I kept mine wide open in the gardens he built, and for a little while my wanderlust subsided.

Jardins Albert Kahn

Credit © Sarah Bartesaghi Truong

Lead photo credit : Credit © Sarah Bartesaghi Truong

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Sarah Bartesaghi Truong has lived, studied and worked in Milan, Paris and London. Her lifelong passion for art in all its forms and her entrepreneurial dreams were the catalyst for a career change: she left the world of investment banking to go back to school, at the Sotheby’s Institute of London. Ten years ago, she moved back to Paris, the ideal location for an art-lover. As an Italian in Paris, she decided she would keep playing the tourist in her adoptive home town, always on the lookout for the many wonders the French capital has to offer to the curious explorer. VeniVidiParis, the company she founded, plans curated itineraries in the French capital and its vicinity for travellers wishing to discover the city’s vibrant art scene, but not only. Take a look at her recent discoveries on her Instagram feed, @venividiparis, or contact her at [email protected] for help planning your next Parisian vacation.

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Comments

  • Sarah Bartesaghi Truong
    2020-08-31 11:26:41
    Sarah Bartesaghi Truong
    Dear Michael, the Paris bucket list is endless, and Bonjour Paris offers so many ideas to add to it! Stay safe, Sarah

    REPLY

  • Sarah Bartesaghi
    2020-08-31 11:25:09
    Sarah Bartesaghi
    Dear Ruth, I totally agree with you! All the best, Sarah

    REPLY

  • Sarah Bartesaghi
    2020-08-31 11:22:57
    Sarah Bartesaghi
    Dear Jane, Paris never ceases to amaze, and it is part of the charm of this magical city. I hope we can all travel soon. In the meantime, stay safe. Sarah

    REPLY

  • Sarah Bartesaghi Truong
    2020-08-31 11:21:06
    Sarah Bartesaghi Truong
    Dear Beth, I am glad I inspired you to add this magical place to your Paris bucket list. Hopefully you can visit very soon... Stay safe, Sarah

    REPLY

  • Michael Cicchi
    2020-08-29 07:48:54
    Michael Cicchi
    Gorgeous garden 👏👏👏 trés jolie. I will definitely put it on Google maps for my next trip to Paris.

    REPLY

  • Ruth Goodsir
    2020-08-27 10:00:27
    Ruth Goodsir
    We found this garden years ago after reading a book written by an American journalist living with his family in Paris for a year. He raved about the garden in his book. The garden is beautifully laid out and it’s tribute to Japanese gardens Is so accurate. It is truly a piece of heaven and tranquility in Paris. There are tiny hidden gems of Japan all around this garden. We spent hours roaming around, and were totally amazed at the lack of people in such a magical place. Truly worth a visit.

    REPLY

  • Jane Jefford
    2020-08-27 06:28:59
    Jane Jefford
    This garden sounds lovely. I was totally unaware that it existed. How lovely to have something to look forward to the next time I visit Paris; it sounds like a wonderful oasis of peace and calm! So looking forward to being able to be in Paris again in the not too distant future

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  • Beth Gersh-Nesic
    2020-08-23 06:15:48
    Beth Gersh-Nesic
    Thank you so much, Sarah, for this vivid virtual tour of Albert Kahn Garden. I had never heard of it and now I long to see it when I can return to Paris. Something to look forward to . . . Merci!

    REPLY