Would most Francophones, Francophiles, and other French partisans out there agree with me that August is the worst month for a trip to France? You know the drill: Paris empties of Parisians, the Côte d'Azur overflows with tourists, hotels raise their prices, and stores take their full month of "fermeture annuelle." I once came across an ice cream shop in the St.-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood that announced it would be closing for the month of August. An ice cream shop. Closed in August. If that's not a sign to turn back now, I don't know what is.
But if you must go to France in August, it's possible you can avoid much of the month's nonsense by steering clear of some of the more traditional end-of-summer locales (i.e. Paris and beaches). In August 2008 I spent a weekend in the Champagne region touring caves and drinking lots of bubbly. Absent were the hordes of tourists that plague cities like Nice and Cannes this time of year. Instead of fighting for a little scrap of sand, we played tennis on wide open courts, signed up for a private tasting at Moët and Chandon, and dined alongside locals.
If you must go to France in August, try breaking away from the pack. Nearly all of France is a tourist destination, but some areas are more crowded at certain times of the year (example: Strasbourg and its famous Christmas market in December). Why not look at August as the time to explore outside of Paris? And why not save your beach vacation for a more tranquil time? August could be the perfect time to eat and drink your way through Burgundy, hike the Pyrennes, or sample French beers in Lille.
Or maybe it's the perfect time to plan your September trip to France.