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France
Introduction  
 
Visit the oldest garden in all of France – the Jardins des Plantes in Montpellier in the Languedoc-Rousillon region. It may come as a surprise to most tourists, but this haven is just 20 minutes' walk from the Place de la Comedie. But these lovely gardens are a welcome respite and a haven of peace and tranquility. Do come here to relax and breathe in the fresh air that only gardens seem to have.
 
This botanical paradise is filled with over 3,500 species of indigenous and exotic plants. There are also some very old trees in this garden, several that date back to the time when the garden was first formed, in 1593.
 
The Jardins des Plantes was created by Henry IV, who wanted students of medicine to have easier access to plants that can help in their research. He commissioned Pierre Richer de Belleval, who was a teacher of botany and anatomy, to make a Royal garden similar to an Italian medical garden. After all, the garden was just a stone's throw away from the University of Medicine, which also holds the distinction of being France's oldest such university. At the time, only doctors, researchers, and students of medicine had access to the garden and its medicinal plants.
 
Later on, more and more plants were added to the garden, particularly plants that hailed from different parts of the world. The concept of creating different climates through the use of greenhouses in order for plants to thrive was, during that time, a very novel idea. Indeed, the greenhouses, plus the fact that this is France's first time to create such a garden, have made the garden very famous. In fact, the Jardins des Plantes became the inspiration for the creation of the renowned Botanical Garden in Paris, which was built in 1635.
 
In 1841, the Garden was opened to the public. And what a gift to the city it was and continually is! This is home not just to doctors and scholars, but to poets, lovers, and tourists who gaze in wonder at the romantic atmosphere it engenders. Today, locals and tourists alike stop and take their time to enjoy nature's wonders available in the garden.
 
It is a peaceful spot in the midst of the busyness of the metropolis of Montpellier. This haven covers all of 4.5 hectares. The garden includes a 19th century Orangery, some greenhouses containing tropical plants, plus a number of canals, follies, grottoes, rock gardens, a small duck pond, and a bamboo garden. It also features some busts of botanists who were instrumental in its creation, including Rabelais and de Belleval. Do visit the Jardin de Recherché (Research Garden), the Jardin Anglais (English Garden) and the mystical Ecole Forestiere (Forest School).
 
The botanical garden has been proclaimed as a Site Protégé in 1984 and a Monument Historique in 1992. The Jardins des Plantes is open daily (except on Mondays) only from April to September, from 12:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. and from October to March from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

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