Anyone who has ever visited Paris in August immediately senses that something is out of whack. Other than the Parvis in front of Notre-Dame or the Tour Eiffel, Paris is practically empty. It is the Congée Annuelle otherwise known as August. There are plenty of parking spots on the street, seats are empty on the metro. At least half the retail stores are closed for the month with a sign thanking us for our understanding.
I walked outside of my apartment building this morning at 10:45. There wasn’t a person to be seen. It was eerily quiet. The Boulangerie on the corner is closed. Two out of the three fruit and vegetable markets are closed. The Greek deli is closed. The pizza and sandwich shop is closed. The one and only Women’s clothing shop is closed. The chocolate shop is open with an ice cream stand outside the door.
Where Parisians live, it is silent. Where tourists gather, there are more people than ever. Trying to walk across the Parvis to meet a friend at a cafe was like negotiating one of the hardest obstacle slalom courses one could find. Tourists don’t walk. They amble—as they should. How else is one to take in the beauty that is Paris? However, if you live here, as I do, tourist places should be avoided at all costs. Especially if you need to be somewhere. It is a good reminder of the awe that most of us felt when we first arrived. When rambling was the height of entertainment.
Quinze Août (August 15th–The Assumption of Mary) is a holiday within the vacation month. Then absolutely everything shuts down. I asked Barbara, “Isn’t it a contradiction to have everyone celebrating a Catholic holiday in a Socialist Country?” She responded “no, not at all. Unlike the US, we have total separation of church and state.” (Note: now that Macron is President, France is no longer a Socialist country).
The stores that are open have tiny signs in their windows telling us that things are still at “very small prices.” Les Soldes is over but they hope to get rid of all their stock before La Rentrée. La Rentrée which literally means The Re-Entry. When everyone comes back to Paris, back to work and back to school.
But we have one more week of August yet to go!!!