Paris has long been known for turning into a ghost town during the month of August, when Parisians consider themselves duty-bound to holiday elsewhere, usually migrating in their thousands to the south. This annual “vacation” of the city may not prove quite so emphatic this year, as the recession continues to bite: many Parisians will be putting on a brave face and opting for what the Americans call a “staycation”. They may well be surprised at how affordable and enjoyable their often expensive city can be in the “dead” season; this summer Paris offers its inhabitants and tourists alike a wide variety of cultural diversions and just-plain-fun entertainment, often at low cost or even totally free of charge, leaving plenty of reserves for the main order of French business, the pursuit of a Good Meal. If your travel plans to or from your villa will take you near Paris, it could be the perfect way to spend a few days gearing up for or winding down from the rigours of poolside life. Hotel accommodation at all price levels can be found online or through travel agents.
The Open-Air Cinema Festival at the Parc de la Villette (July 15–August 16) is a good place to start. The biggest and best-known of many free and low-cost film festivals that run in Paris throughout the summer, this festival features current films, including English-language films, shown on a giant screen under the stars. Screenings begin at nightfall, usually around 10:30 pm, and admission to watch the film is free of charge; chairs and blankets can be hired at a small charge. Picnics are encouraged; what better place for an evening picnic with a nice bottle of wine and those goodies from the market earlier in the day. The Clair de Lune Festival shows French-language classic films at different locations throughout Paris Thursdays through Sundays in mid-August.
Outdoor concerts also loom large during the summer: the Classique au Vert series runs from the beginning of August to mid-September in the Parc Floral de Paris, and this year features the music of the French Impressionists. Concerts take place weekends beginning at 4 pm, and of course are free of charge and very picnic-friendly. The Festival Fnac Indétendances runs weekends between July 25 to August 15 and features pulsating outdoor pop music concerts.
There are a number of interesting and entertaining exhibitions, all free of charge, taking place in August, the pick of these being:
Le Grand Pari(s), at the Cité de l’Architecture, www.citechaillot.fr, with projected versions of Paris in 30 years’ time by international artists, demonstrating the evolution Paris over the last three centuries, and offering an unfamiliar skyline of the city.
Gustave Eiffel: Magician of Iron at the Hotel de Ville, www.paris.fr www.citechaillot.fr/ This year sees the 120th anniversary of the Dame de Fer, the Eiffel Tower, inaugurated in March 1889. The exhibition traces the prolific and brilliant career of the engineer who designed revolutionary and imaginative structures throughout the world, including the “skeleton” of the Statue of Liberty.
Paris: Design en Mutation Espace fondation EDF fondation.edf.com. A whimsical look at a projected future day-to-day life in Paris, an exhibition full of humour and poetry, with eleven artists offering new perspectives: cue oxygen generators, flying hotels, and many other mind-bending concepts.
Of course, all the famous museums for which Paris is justifiably renowned are open, and we have been reliably informed that nowadays there are only minimal queues at the Louvre!
Kandinsky Pompidou Centre
Finally, if you just have to hit the beach in between museums/concerts/restaurants/films, you can sandal on down to the Seine along the voie George Pompidou in the 4th arrondissement (near Notre Dame), or the Bassin de la Villette in the 19th arrondissement where the original city beach, the Paris Plage, is up and running for its eighth season. Until August 20th, expect palm trees, beach umbrellas, boardwalk cafés, and tons and tons of hot sand along the Rive Droite, with open-air bars, a pool area, activities for children, a Wi-Fi enabled “business class”, and plenty of impromptu entertainment and concerts completing the picture of a veritable seaside resort.
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