Photos Erica Berman
One of my favorite times of year in Paris is the transition between winter and spring. It’s that miraculous moment when the gray dampness lifts and the first rays of warm sunlight begin to creep their way along rooftops, through windows, over bridges. It’s still coat weather, but hope is in the air.
More importantly, it’s the moment when droves of Parisians emerge from indoors after months of hibernation. A few months from now, they will undoubtedly look healthy and bronzed and full of life; but for the moment, they are pale and wan (and still dressed in black) and seeking sunlight as if it were their lifeblood. I remember walking through the Jardin du Luxembourg on the first warm day last year and being convinced that the city was awash in a sea of vampires. I had never seen so many black leather-clad beings, their skin sparkling beneath the first rays of springtime sun.
Yes, this is the best moment of the year, and it’s not just about the weather. I think it has something to do with humility, with the fact that despite being the coolest people in the world, even Parisians have to admit: sunlight is pretty sweet. They’re not necessarily going to get all smiley about it (Parisian facial muscles are not equipped to smile for long periods of time), but they are going to install themselves on park benches and scowl up at the sun—a symbolic smile, of sorts.
In addition, this moment marks the beginning of “loitering season” in Paris, which typically lasts through October. As of last week, it’s beginning to happen. The parks are filling up with families, the quais of the Seine are dotted with groups of young hellions, and there seems to be a city-wide consensus about the importance of getting outside and staying there for as long as possible.
This might not sound so remarkable—it happens each spring in cities all over the world. But in Paris, it’s particularly gratifying to observe because, as blasé as Parisians might be for most of the year, the brink of springtime has the ability to render them ever-so-slightly giddy. It’s not full-out spring fever; it’s more like spring peaked-ness. But I’ll take it.