in my neighbourhood: les jardins familiaux

Welcome to our neighbourhood family gardens - a hundred or more plots - rented and tenderly filled with all kinds of flowers, vegetables, fruit trees, grasses. They are hodge-podge sheds, pergolas, paved terraces, barrels full of rain water, olive groves, orchards, blackberry brambles... narrow foot-worn pathways, benches and stooping willow trees. Each plot has a gate of some kind, my favourites are the ones with obviously salvaged doors. When Alex and I first stumbled across this place in a moment of serendipity, it was as if we'd found an enormous secret garden. We were giddy with excitement, and since then have returned in the cold of winter, crisp of autumn, promise of spring and heat of summer to glean inspiration, breathe in the air infused with burning woodpiles, listen to the hum of insects and french radios blearing, and often silence.

We live on the outskirts of a big old romantic city. Sure we live in a neighbourhood that is distinct for its new, concrete-slab like low-rent housing, cultural diversity and unruly youth. Yet these gardens offer a beautiful, quiet sanctuary - an honest, earthy feeling unlike anything you will find with a metro-station. I love that. I do.