Paris is Glorious in August

Written by admin on August 15, 2009 – 2:02 pm -

This past week has been a glorious week in Paris. Not that being here isn’t always wonderful.  But after a non-summer that’s been cold and rainy, the weather has been pleasant and conducive to taking long walks, sitting in cafés and watching the world go by. Sure, it’s August, but you don’t feel as if you’re drowning in a sea of humidity.

My appointments have been all over the city. One of them was in the 2eme arrondissement and even though I was on the same street less than six months ago, the neighborhood is undergoing extreme gentrification. Yes, the buildings are still the same, but many are being cleaned, and new and trendy stores and restaurants will debut on their ground floors come the rentrée.

This area of the 2eme used to be a wee bit seedy. I was sad to see there’s only one remaining bar on my walk that actually looked as if it welcomed men wearing workmen’s clothes, who might bolt back a glass of wine at 9:00 a.m.  I thought about joining them but reconsidered. It’s as if I could smell cigarette smoke wafting onto the sidewalk. I knew the odor was my imagination since smoking is deféndu unless there’s an outside area. Much to my surprise, people have been adhering to the no smoking ban. It’s sad that these bars that sell Métro tickets, lottery tickets, stamps, and cigarettes may become relics of the past.

So many chic and hip fast food eateries are replacing them. When the French adopt a trend, they embrace it with a vengeance. And these bar/cafés are mushrooming. Don’t get the impression that I’m opposed to organic and healthy food served with implements that are recyclable. But they simply don’t have the look and feel of vrai Paris—and who comes to Paris to eat off paper plates with plastic forks?  Many of them slickly redesigned and splashed with color everywhere—the walls, chairs, stools, banquettes.  I’m not sure it if it’s décor for every taste or décor with no taste at all.

But cheer up: WiFi is free. People don’t spend hours surfing but, even if the place you’re sitting in doesn’t offer it, much of the city of Paris is wired.  Thank you, Mayor Delanoë.

I had time before my next appointment and strolled to the Rue de Rivoli via the Rue du Louvre. It was only 9:30 a.m. but Rivoli was filled with tourists and they couldn’t wait for the stores to open (Up with the metal grate! Down with the postcards and the souvenirs made in Asia!) so they could buy and buy some more.  As for nationalities, there are a lot of Americans and my minimal Italian received a quick and dirty refresher course.

I spotted groups of Japanese (they’re visible as they follow a guide waving a flag or an umbrella). Even though business may be off due to the economy, it’s by no means dead. French tourists are in evidence. And many Parisians are living life as usual. Some have taken the month off while others are manning their desks.

Some other things I noticed:  Even though the shops in this über touristy area seem to sell the same goods (and perhaps are owned by the same people), everyone was pleasant.  Perhaps it’s because the weather has been idyllic and people are in good moods.  The prices being asked were less than they used to be although nothing was free or much of a bargain.

The very expensive clothing stores selling haute couture (on sale) were less frequented and when I tried on a pair of pants that I didn’t love or want and couldn’t afford anyway at 70% off of retail, the sales clerk was willing to bargain.  The fact that the pants and I were not meant for each other didn’t seem to enter the equation. She insisted on showing me a great blouse, but after looking at the price, I passed, realizing there are only so many clothes a person can wear.

On my return, I crossed the Seine to take a look-see at the tourist situation on the Left Bank.  There was no lack of them and people were eating and buying.  I am not suggesting they were sitting in three-star restaurants, but neither am I, even if they are open and offering discounts the size of their main courses.

Taxi drivers always give me a realistic take about the economy. The ones I’ve hired say there are plenty of tourists. Business is down because it’s August.

I decided to play tourist myself and hailed an electric Urban-Cab.  My driver Nicholas spoke incredible English and he biked me (OK, there’s a tiny motor) home. We talked about everything, including his two summers in Indiana and why he’d chosen this profession.  We agreed he didn’t need to go to a gym.  Nicholas says he’s having an excellent season and there are plenty of tourists to keep him busy. The company has only ten vehicles so people should reserve.  Although not tour guides, these electro-pedi-cab drivers will give you a new perspective on Paris. Nicholas said he enjoyed American tourists the most—though I wonder what he would have said if I were German or Italian.  Who cares?  It was fun and perhaps, I’ll treat myself to a ride at night so I can watch the Eiffel Tower sparkle.  A cheap treat for August in Paris.


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