Paris in August is typically quiet; Clive and I have enjoyed summer visits in prior years. Last week, while Clive tackled another DIY project, I spent a few days in the City of Light, to work on the current chapter of my book. I did manage to get out on a few necessary errands and stop into a favourite shop or two.
Though many Paris businesses shut down for all or part of August, the city’s main tourist sites, department stores and numerous restaurants, cafes and shops remain open.
Added to the usual seasonal sleepiness, tourist numbers are down this year, though not, apparently, American numbers. In July, The Atlantic reported ‘U.S. visitors to Paris have actually risen by 0.6 per cent this summer.’
One result in any case is lower fares and opportunities to experience the City of Light without as many crowds. You’ll still mix with plenty of people viewing museum exhibits, strolling by the Paris plages (temporary beaches) and bouquinistes (booksellers) along the Seine, relaxing on café terraces and, if you fancy, playing beach volleyball on the plaza of Hôtel de Ville, Paris city hall.
Our local café (Vlad’s café) closes for three weeks in August, but others nearby remain open; the boulangerie with our favourite bread was open but the one with the best pains au chocolat in Paris closed; both Monoprix stores were open — yay! — and so was a family-run chocolatier, where I chose a little treat to take back to Clive.
Two women I spoke with in the shops, when I commented about their working in August, said they’d taken their long holiday (vacation) in July and didn’t mind returning in August.
There’s a lot to be said for quiet, or relative quiet compared to the rest of the year – even if some residential streets feel eerie without traffic.
You can walk along the footpath without being rushed or pushed. The buses and metros have multiple seats available. The department store BHV was as empty as I’ve ever seen it, perfect for not only a household errand but also a browse in the stationery and book departments.
Best of all, along with the large department stores, every papeterie, or stationery shop, in town is gearing up in August for the rentrée, September’s back-to-school season. Shop tables, counters and shelves are laden with temptation, overflowing with pens and pencils and multi-coloured papers and notebooks of all shapes and sizes and all manner of cases, portfolios, bags and backpacks in which to carry one’s treasures.
For many years, the general view was, ‘Never go to Paris in August! It’s deserted!’ More recently, an opposing view has emerged, ‘I love Paris in August! It’s so much nicer then!’
I don’t agree with either; for me the truth is somewhere in the middle. As I get older, what I least like about Paris – or anywhere, really – in summer is the heat. I miss our tree by the sea and Felixstowe’s lovely sea breeze. A Seine-side picnic is a Paris alternative.
Despite — or because of — the heat, I’m sure the quais of the Seine and the Canal St-Martin, the steps of Sacré-Coeur and the lawns of the Champ de Mars stretching beneath the Eiffel Tower were full of young people, whiling away the still-long summer nights (Paris is an hour ahead of the UK) and soaking up summer in the City of Light.
In August, trees and flowers are still in full bloom. I’m so pleased to say those surrounding Ben Franklin seem to be flourishing.
So, if you want to visit Paris and August is the only time you can go, do it! No matter the month, Paris will deliver its special magic.
Cheers and thanks for reading.
ais of the yay! —
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