In Paris, it must be acknowledged that not all seasons are equal.
Despite Frank Sinatra’s opinion!
I love Paris in the springtime.
I love Paris in the fall.
I love Paris in the winter when it drizzles,
I love Paris in the summer when it sizzles
Of course Paris is still a beautiful city under the summer sun, but there are many compelling reasons to plan a brief escapade.
I had to mention this one…
Here is a picture of the Tuileries park last week, with temperatures already climbing north of 30 degrees celsius, as I was on my way to a meeting at 9am.
Paris was built at a time when air conditioning didn’t exist. For many years, it wasn’t needed. Now, for at least a week or two every summer this no longer holds true.
In many Parisian neighbourhoods life happens outside – in the streets, on the café terasses and the precious few public parks fill up quickly with all and sundry.
The real issue happens at times of day when we need to be indoors, namely for our work, or to sleep.
Overheated offices are the worst.
In real estate there is an expression that entices many a Parisian buyer or renter; it is ‘exposé plein sud’. This guarantees you a light and bright workspace, or appartment. In northern Europe a fair trot away from the Mediterranean where the vast majority of the year the weather is some variation of ‘overcast’, this seems like a sound choice.
However, just once a year when ‘plan canicule’ is set in motion and the news reports spew doom and gloom recounting risk of death for the elderly population and RATP announces in insistent tones that we must all carry water with us to stay hydrated, suddenly that suntrap space that you were so keen to bag turns into a furnace.
In an open space office full computers, the fans are working hard to keep the machinery cool. In real terms this just means that heat has to go somewhere and as it is given off heats up the surrounding air temperature quickly.
Many of us love Haussmannian architecture, but those large sash windows, opening onto romantic balconies, just create a greenhouse effect.
The only way to effectively fight against this one is … to close the shutters.
Now this isn’t ideal for a variety of reasons, but the most obvious one being: “How effectively do you work in a darkened, balmy space after lunch?”
Yep, thought so!
Productivity at work is near non-existent for those who aren’t incredibly heat resistant, on a killer deadline, or caffeinated.
The tarmac also absorbs heat all day, with the concrete buildings. This is why at night the air temperature remains hot until the early hours of the morning.
This sponge effect works in reverse, so that from around 9pm until 1 or 2am, the residual heat absorbed during the day is being given off.
The Party’s moved on
Paris is a very cyclical city. Marked by mass movement (such as la rentrée or le grand départ vacances d’été), it seems fitting to keep in step with her rhythms.
By late June, we can feel a sense of slowing. The school year is drawing in, and as the weather heats up everyone’s minds turn to the holidays, which look so nearly in sight.
Perhaps the last big public party is la Fête de la Musique held on the 21st of June annually. The date is not left to chance, it’s the Summer Solstice and the longest day of the year.
This street-based celebration of music and all musicians has a relaxed, freewheeling atmosphere, and although cleaned up and better organised in recent years, retains its rebellious roots and idealistic ideals.
Another great place to party is down on the Banks of the Seine – sur les quais.
Here depending on what you want to spend, you can either pitch a picnic and buy a bottle of fresh rosé from a independent grocery store on Île-Saint-Louis, or there are several riverside watering holes.
Here is one of my favourite floating bars – the Peniche le marcounet, just down the steps to the Seine from metro Pont Marie.
The Party can be heard from your window
Of course, you could have the opposite problem.
If you live directly across a narrow street from an especially lively bar, you may well be wishing that the party would move on and the revellers go and keep St Tropez awake instead of you.
These summer noise problems in Paris are becoming more and more frequent in areas gaining in partying popularity.
If you live in the Marais, parts of the 2nd arrondissement and the 11th, especially anywhere near rue Oberkampf or the Canal St Martin, you will know what I mean.
It’s a double edged sword: on one hand you might be proud of your dynamic neighbourhood with its seemingly endless amusements. It’s a privilege to step out of your door and live in one of the prettiest and most popular parts of town.
But in summer that takes on a whole new meaning.
Here, neighbours living in the heart of the Marais at the crossroads between; La rue de Turenne, rue Froissart and rue Bretagne, have clearly had enough.
This photo was taken in 2017, at the time the brasserie directly underneath them, nowadays le Bistrot Léo, was a raucous one. Directly across the road is the sprawling terrace of Le Progrès, bar chéri of the neighbourhood and also the ultimate people-watching pew during Fashion week.
A few doors down on rue Froissart hipster haunt le Mary Celeste stands staunchly for strong cocktails and an even stronger crowd. Malmo, further down rue Froissart, which opened this year is already embroiled in tensions with the neighboring community.
In short, if you’re lucky to live in a fashionable neighbourhood and enjoy sleeping with the window open, now might be the moment to skip town.
Does it feel as though all your clients have made the collective decision to scamper to the South, leaving you with little to do but twiddle your thumbs in front of an empty inbox?
This phenomena is not entirely unknown for Summer in Paris.
School holidays, tradition and the sheer temptation of being next to a pool as temperatures climb means that the bulk of French workers choose to holiday in July or August, with smaller trips planned to tide over June.
Where would you rather be?
However, for those of us who stay on in town it does mean that work takes on a different rhythm.
You might have questions that you need answered to move forward on a project, but are simply met with a bounce back which translates something like this.
‘I am now on annual holiday and will return on the 24th August.’
Whilst generation Y of millennial bloggers are constantly on call, never really disconnecting and picking up email and notifications from their iPhones; the generation above of French professionals in their late 30s and 40s take holiday seriously and make a clean break.
So, if your clients have already abandoned Paris and there’s no work to be done, why don’t you follow suit?
You need a break
In the last few years the expression ‘burn out’ has made its way into the French vernacular: Mainly employed to describe professional overload and subsequently cracking under the pressure, in a city like Paris it could come from a mix of professional responsibilities, family obligation and the pace of modern life.
Parisians start the year with renewed vigor in September after generous holidays.
By late October, minor stressors and seasonal flus have set in, leaving everybody more than ready for the Vacances de Toussaint.
Christmas, Easter interspersed by the Vacances de Ski serve to further break up the year. However, towards the end of May, after the notorious ‘ponts’, business picks up and it’s all stations go right through until Summer holiday departures.
This time of year can actually seem the most stressful, as everyone goes into overdrive. It affects Parisians with children especially as the end of the school year, with all that entails, and the busiest time at work often coincide.
This certainly proved the case for a close copine of mine who works with Notary lawyers, the annual rush dovetailed school summer concerts, an environmental week (classe verte) and les fêtes de fin d’année, which she was required to bake for.
Making a short break for it and taking a few days out of town and away from the daily grind and accompanying stressors, could make all the difference.
The French have a great expression ‘se changer les idées’. You’ll get balance and perspective back from even a short get-away.
Sand and sea air
The huge advantage of life in l’Hexagone and it’s four climatic zones, is that you are never too far away from a beach.
If you’re keen not to spend too long on the road or in the train, your best bets are probably the beaches of the Norman coast: Glamorous Deauville (pictured), Trouville, Honfleur and Cabourg.
There is nothing as nice as skipping Paris in Summer to find yourself the following morning with sandy toes and salty hair, city stress being blown away by the breeze.
And as luck would have it, you don’t need to go hauling yourself to an airport to take a flight abroad, all this is easily accessible and practically on your doorstep.
Get back to nature
As urban warriors, as much as we may be in love with ‘la vie citadine’, it’s often in summer that we hunger for nature most.
During the interminable grey, dreary months of mid winter, we are thrilled to be in the capital of culture with an ever-changing array of museums and new restaurants to keep even the most capricious citydwellers entertained.
However, come the summer months we hunger to walk barefoot in the grass, wake up to birdsong, spend time outside and savour sunsets.
The great news is, all of this is in fact available to you without even putting pied outside Île-de-France!
Huttopia offers Parisians and international campers the enticing experience of a three star campsite complete with a heated pool, where you can enjoy a barbecue in the woods.
Their Versailles site is nearby the famous Château de Versailles. The other location is in the beautiful forest of Rambouillet nearby.
Huttopia endeavour to practice Eco Tourism. Some of their pools are cleaned thanks to friendly algae and other cleansing minerals, instead of chlorine.
Avoid the Tourist traps
It is no secret that as Paris empties of locals, the height of the tourist season steps up a gear.
This can be especially noticeable if you’re Montmartrois, living in Montmartre village. Summer can turn your tranquil home turf into disneyland.
There’s nothing wrong with Paris’ thriving tourism industry, but if you’re trying to walk your dog and the Place du Tertre looks like people are trying to crowd surf at a rock concert, it might be time to pack your Summer suitcase.
You want to see what else is out there…
It is all too easy in Paris to become unbelievably complacent, blinkered even. Despite Parisians sometimes thinking that they have everything on their doorstep, there is a big wide world out there.
France is huge, consisting of 101 different départements: All of these have their own regional characteristics, produits de terroir and gems waiting to be discovered.
Never skipping the city and spending your Summer in Paris would be like owning a mansion and living in just one small wing of it.
Partir pour mieux revenir
Distance makes the heart grow fonder, so the dicton goes.
When we leave somebody, or somewhere we love and then come back to it, after some time has passed, often we see them with fresh eyes and fall in love all over again.
This is how I feel when I return to Paris after some days away, or indeed the longer Summer holidays.
I leave in a tizz, trying to cram in as much work and as many goodbye apéros as physically possible before vacation.
Returning, things seem calmer and sweeter. I remember to look up, notice the quality of light and details I previously ignored walking round my neighbourhood.
I’m not sure if I imagine it, but that week just as everyone is making it back to town, around the 20th of August, has a special energy:
Smiles exchanged, a slower pace, shopkeepers and customers alike in the streets have brought back something of the Summer sun with them and share their agreable energy with those around them.
Long live the afterglow of leaving Paris in Summer!