Wednesday, August 4, 2010

If You Must Go to France in August...

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. 

7 comments:

FrenchTwistDC said...

Ah ah... I think this will be my first time spending le 15 Aout in Paris ;-) wish me luck! Paris Plage here I come!

Zhu said...

You can actually get good deals in Paris right now, hotels don't seem to be packed. Last Friday night, we scored a hotel room three minutes' walk from the Eiffel Tower for CA$70 for a double.

I'm also always surprised to see places closing for a month or two. How do they do it???

Melina said...

My friend Erin has NEVER been to Paris and just arrived yesterday for a couple of weeks. Soo since she really needs to see our beautiful city, we're going to try to survive the hords of tourists and see everything! On the other hand, Ro and I are waiting to take our REAL vacation at the end of August.. to Greece :)

Tanya said...

@FrenchTwistDC, Ok,I'll admit it: I'd rather be going to Paris on le 15 Aout than not at all! Amuse-toi bien :-)

@Zhu, A good deal, indeed. I always hear that the French just don't care about making money. Is it true?

@Melina, If I know you I'd say your friend Erin has pretty much the best Parisian tour guide around. You'll have fun despite those hordes :-)

Phil in Normandy said...

I think Paris is lovely in spring or autumn, or on a clear winter's day. However, we're only a couple of hours away and it's over 5 years since I've been there, other than to pick people up from CDG!

I agree with the advice to steer clear of the tourist honeypots in August (also late July) - much better to find the less touristy places, as there are plenty of things to see and do in every region of France.

It's a shame so many people go for the obvious choices of Paris, Loire Châteaux and the coastal resorts. All those are super out of season, but overrun in summer - spoilt by their own popularity.

Zhu said...

I think it's pretty accurate, let's just say French don't care so much about making money as long as they can survive. Of course, the definition of "surviving" depends on people... but making money is not a goal in itself, or rarely.

Tanya said...

@Phil, Agreed on Paris in the fall. It's my favorite time of year there. Springtime is lovely as well, and iconic.