Paris in August

 

Paris changes in summer. The City of Love loses many of its notoriously hostile inhabitants and prepares itself to welcome tourists. In the La Défense offices, the phones no longer ring; the boulevards, normally brimming with cars, lorries and buses - and the inevitable pollution - become crossable for pedestrians (it is estimated that just under one third of the usual vehicles take to the roads at this time of year); roads become a haven for those who would like to use the vélibs, and the metro can be taken without risk of suffocation.

 

Signs announcing « fermé pour les congés » are numerous across the city during this spell. Even some ice cream shops close (baffling logic). It may seem nonsensical that many tourist attractions, namely restaurants, theatres and art expositions close completely in August, but from a business-perspective there is no problem due to all doing the same; there seems to be an unwritten agreement. There is, however, one (very French) exception: boulangeries. For 200 years the prefecture has regulated the holidays of boulangers to ensure that they do not all flee the city at the same time; they must open their shop for at least one month during the summer period. This rule owes its existence to the Revolution. Bread at this time was a main component of the Frenchman’s diet and the slightest lack of it could cause riots. The reaction to a lack of pain would perhaps be not quite as unruly nowadays, but the law remains well-obeyed in Paris and its banlieues. La baguette is in fact so sacrosanct in Paris that the Mairie publishes a list of boulangeries which remain open during August.

 

Although Paris is deserted by Parisians in summer (up to fifty percent leave the city), it receives visitors in numbers unseen throughout the rest of the year and is very much geared up to this, with many wonderful - and often free - cultural events. Last year, Paris Plage celebrated its 12th anniversary and continues to welcome more than 200,000 visitors (a number that has been growing steadily year-on-year). Open to all, the sand along the banks of the Seine is not just there for topping up a tan; it’s also the base for dozens of activities, including pétanque, beach volleyball and salsa dancing. The beach concept and all it brings with it - from the giant deckchairs to low-priced ice creams - is heavily subsidised by the Mairie. For those who would like culture in a more traditional sense, the outdoor cinema at Parc Villette has a selection of film offerings. Simply pack a rug, bring a baguette (if you can find one), wine and some cheese and you’re set for an evening under the stars watching the latest (and the more traditional) blockbusters.

 

The rentrée, with the start of the school term in September, provides a remarkable contrast. The metro is once again packed, work is more serious and any cultural activities are confined to indoors. Enjoy the tranquillity of the city and its balmy summer evenings whilst you can!

 

For more advice on what IS going on in Paris this summer check out http://www.blog.franglish.eu/events-paris-august

 

Author: Amy Harding

 

IMAGE: fermepourcongesannuels.tumblr.com


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