The best time to go if you can stand the heat
I’ve no clue what the rest of this summer has in store for those wishing to travel between the United States and France, but I do know that, in years past, there was a golden moment every summer in Paris.
I’m speaking of the month of August. A month where I don’t know how great it was to be a tourist in Paris. But it sure was great to live there.
I should point out that the month of August is a special time of the year when seemingly every single French person goes on vacation all at once. And by single, I actually mean every married French person with children. The beaches, mountains, and country villages fill up with families and couples who rent or own homes in these locales and travel there every year. And as the countryside fills up… the cities empty out.
Now, before I jump into why this is wonderful, let me point out some of the downfalls of Paris in August. First of all, it’s hot. It’s so, so very hot and it’s not as though you can take a quick dip in the Seine to cool off. It’s so very hot and hardly anyone has air conditioning (remember that the French think AC will kill you). It’s hot and with the cluster of buildings and cement streets, it can be difficult to get any fresh air, cool breeze, or break from the stifling heat unless you pop into a grocery store or movie theater.
Second of all, a lot of businesses are closed. If you’re a tourist that wants to stroll down the Champs-Elysee and shop at Sephora before heading in to taste French McDonald’s for the first time, you’ll be fine. But if you’ve done your research and found the city’s most beloved bakeries, restaurants, and shops around the corner, chances are, you’re going to encounter at least one locked door and sign indicating that the owners will be back in September. Again, August is vacation time for most people (particularly in the big cities — coastal cities who rely on summer tourism are usually up and running).
But the payoff for locals is worth it. Traffic disappears. Not only on the roads, but also in the metro. Suddenly, you can breeze down almost any street on a bicycle or sit comfortably on public transportation without the hassle that comes with sharing. Parks become the perfect spot for spending the day and having leisurely picnics with friends. Terrasses, restaurants, and bars that remain open are quiet, easy to access, and grateful for your patronage.
And lastly, even if you have to work, there’s a general feeling of just being on vacation in the most beautiful city in the world. Your boss is likely gone for a week or two, long lunches are encouraged, and leaving the office early on a Friday is expected. You’re earning money but at a much more relaxed pace.
I don’t know if I’ll get to make it there this August. But fingers crossed that I’ll get to experience Paris in August once more. Heat and all.