I know lots of people who say that they love to be in Paris in August, when all the Parisians are awayBut Stephen Clarke does not agree:
what irritates me is that so little happens in Paris in August.
Of course everyone needs their holiday, but it gets tough setting up meetings, for example. Lots of Parisian meetings happen in cafés, and … many of these are closed in summer
… It’s the same buying bread. There are very strict rules about when a boulangerie can close for its annual holidays. The baker has to belong to one of two groups, according to when he or she (almost always he) wants to close: either 1-31 July or 1-31 August. When a shop closes, it has to give the addresses of the two nearest boulangeries that are still open.
… So it’s all well organized, and fresh bread is always available by law, but if your local boulangerie closes and you’re used to strolling lazily across the road in the mornings to buy fresh bread, and now you have to go all of 200 metres further to a boulangerie that you don’t particularly like because their pain aux raisins are too doughy (it can happen), it feels to the average Parisian as if you’ve been told to crawl to Lourdes on your hands and knees as penance for a sin – maybe the sin of staying in Paris when you ought to be on holiday.
So yes, we Parisians are a spoilt bunch, but when you’re used to having a café and a boulangerie within yards of your front door, it’s hard to adapt. I’m sure the same is true for polar explorers: give them easy access to shops and restaurants and they’ll go insane with claustrophobia.
Another problem with Paris in August is that the weekly events guides slim down to supermodel thinness.
… Paris, I think, needs a summer festival.
… I fear, though, that theatres, music venues and café back rooms will all be subject to city rules about annual closure; that sound engineers, stage managers and actors will all want their annual holiday; and that everyone would go on strike anyway, as they threatened to do this year at Avignon.
So maybe Paris is doomed to be bereft of culture every summer. Except of course for the art museums, where you can still see some of the greatest collections in the world. But then again, art shows aren’t hindered by annual holidays, because all the artists concerned are on an eternal vacation in the afterlife. Though I bet that if they want to change from heaven to hell one summer, they have to ask for permission.