When we announced that we would spend June through August in Paris this year I could see dismay in our friends’ eyes. Even though most were too polite to say anything, I knew they were thinking, “Oh, my God, August in Paris? Really? It’s going to be jungle hot with no air conditioning, it will be jammed with unwashed tourists, and you won’t have anything to eat because EVERYONE knows Parisians evacuate in August. The restaurants will be closed. You poor things. What are you thinking?”
WRONG! None of the above has been true for us. Admittedly, a few days in July were so toasty that I spent one afternoon lolling in our apartment’s big old fashioned bathtub, happily sipping cold rosé while indulging in a good read on my Kindle. But right at the start of August the weather cooled, the tourists moved on to Italy or went home to get the kiddies ready for school, and a large percentage of the locals grabbed their bikinis and headed south with their children, dogs and grandma in tow. The lucky Martins were left behind to mind the store! Here are our top reasons to stay in Paris in August:
For a month, which sadly ended last weekend, the City of Paris sponsors an entire beach along the River Seine and traffic-free areas where anyone can spend the day relaxing with their tootsies in the sand, kayaking, swimming in pools suspended over the river, learning to sail, and other delightful activities for people smart enough to stay home. Our favorite was a picnic featuring sensational pates, cheese, fruit, bread and wine with pals as we watched the sun set behind Notre Dame.
Let me tell you that shopping can be a contact sport in Paris. Between Madame Parisienne, who taps her foot until you remove yourself so she can get on with purchasing a new colander, and the ill-mannered tourist who is screaming loudly in his own language, annoyed by the sales person who has the temerity to not speak English, I usually stagger out of a store feeling exhausted and a little angry. But in August BHV, the big department store on the Rue de Rivoli, is mine, all mine! The upper floors where all the interesting things live is virtually empty, so I am allowed to browse happily, envying the treasures I know I’ll never have room enough to take home but love to peruse.
All of these people have gone home to Iowa or on to Ibiza, but they’re certainly NOT in Paris! This photo was taken in June when everyone was French Open-crazy. Now we can laze our way through much of Paris with almost no one in our way, except, of course, around Notre Dame or The Louvre.
For example, here are my husband and our pals Suzanne and Jeremy sprawling on a bench in the Bois de Boulogne rose garden with hardly another soul in sight!
“They,” whoever they are, say there are no restaurants open in Paris in August. “They” are mistaken! Things have changed. Many lovely places are open in August, and when we do arrive they are not crowded. We are greeted graciously, seated quickly, and dine very well! We have enjoyed the same excellent quality and good service we expect, even though we do spend a bit more time in advance searching out places that are open. I have a hunch the staff who stayed home to tend the store are happy to see us! They certainly give us lots of attention.
Does this look like starvation rations?
You can see how miserable we were.
Now, this is obvious. France = fabulous wine, right? It’s even more fabulous when Renaud Vuillermet, of Caves Dargent, which was one block away from our apartment, explained every nuance of the embarrassingly numerous bottles of wine I purchased from him. He educate my palate about the true wonders of a fresh, bright rosé on a steamy Paris afternoon and the deep luscious pleasure of a Grave 2009 Bordeaux for a late evening treat. It was so worth lugging those treasures up three flights of stairs!!!
We made a quick trip to London to see friends and meet the press with our friends at HomeAway.com, and discovered to our delight that getting a spot on the Eurostar was easy. We think all the French and British people are lazing on the beaches on the Mediterranean instead of vying for tickets to get to London!
Even though some of the Metro lines and buses are still crowded around the big sights, we find we can get around the city with much less company than we’ve endured in the past. In August it’s rare to be jammed right next to other passengers, which is a good thing on SO many levels! Note the complete lack of company at this stop.
SEEING THE SIGHTS
Even the must-see sights don’t seem as crowded. Our pals Mary Lou and Nelson came to visit and when we took them to the Arc de Triomphe it was actually possible to take a photo of the great monument without including several people we really didn’t want to get to know!
This year in Paris a bumper crop of friends, old and new, and readers of Home Sweet Anywhere and this blog came to Paris. We had some wonderful lunches, dinners, parties, picnics and great visits. Look at all these smiling faces!
We were so fortunate that our darling friends Andie and Georges allowed us to occupy their apartment for a while, so we were able to entertain new friends, Bonnie and Chuck Headlee, who were enjoying their home free life in Paris, and our long time friends Mary Lou and Nelson for dinner just before we left the city. Here’s what we served: pasta from the wonderful Ina Garten’s on-line recipes.
So next time someone rolls his eyes at the very idea of Paris in August, do tell them that it’s entirely possible for the weather to be mild, the waiters charming, the food terrific, and they might just run into the Martins swanning around in their bathing suits at the beach!