Parc des Buttes Chaumont (Celine NYC)
If you’re in Paris in summer, you’ll pretty quickly realize that as soon as the sun starts to glimmer, Parisians grind into picnic gear. However, despite informal appearances, there is a complex and unspoken code of conduct to be adhered to in order to avoid unforgivable picnic faux pas.
Do dress appropriately.
It is important to give the air of not trying very hard. For girls: a categorical ‘no’ to heels and look-at-me makeup. For guys: forget smart suits or bling sportswear, it’s all about skinny jeans and scarves. Subtle colour and pattern coordination are à la mode. Hats highly recommended.
Do arrive late.
It is useless to turn up anywhere near the appointed picnic hour. It is best to saunter up several hours in, give a slightly (don’t overdo it) apologetic smile, whilst simultaneously giving the impression that your diary is over-spilling with très fun engagements and that the organiser should therefore be delighted that you’ve managed to squeeze them in.
Do invite lots of friends.
The concept of ‘the more the merrier’ is de rigueur. Whereas the biting winter winds keep Parisians at home or drives them (penguin-style) into crowded, sweaty bars, the warm summer weather democratizes social gatherings, which are known to take on gigantesque proportions!
Do not buy ready-made sandwiches.
It is unacceptable to pop to the supermarket and pick up a long-life cellophane-encased creation that deigns to call itself a ‘sandwich’. A fresh baguette, some cheese and charcuterie are the bare minimum.
A delicious french picnic (Scorbs)
Do prepare elaborate dishes.
I.E., quiches & salads. Always present the dish while mumbling something along the lines of, ‘Didn’t have much time, just a little something I threw together…’ As with the dress code, it is important to make it all seem oh-so effortless.
Do experiment with people-meeting techniques
Concoct a (mildly) plausible excuse to approach the targeted stranger(s) and casually wander over. I suggest ‘The forgotten corkscrew’, ‘The over-inquisitive dog*’ or ‘The do-you-have-any-spare glasses’ scenarios, but your imagination is the limit! Although Parisians usually frown upon general interactions with strangers, come summer, icy propriety starts to melt – well, just a little.
*Please note that bringing a dog to culinary gatherings is not considered unhygienic or inappropriate.
Do choose the right location.
Here’s the lowdown on some of my favorite places to picnic:
– Buttes Chaumont, 19ème (Plus: largest park in Paris with trees, waterfalls & a lake. Minus: hilly and thus lots of potential for spillage & bottle rolling).
– La Seine (Plus: picture postcard setting. Minus: loud tourists on boats, the occasional wandering bum.)
– Canal St Martin, 10ème (Plus: Trendy hotspot, great people-watching, plentiful surrounding bars for après-picnic festivities. Minus: very little grass, quiet or room to spread a blanket/do acrobatics).
Further afield (well, beyond the safe confines of the 20 arrondissements):
– Bois de Vicennes (Plus: huge and green with lots of trees, 2,458 acres to be precise – that’s 3 times bigger than Central Park & 4 times bigger than Hyde Park. Minus: Far away from the center of it all (in Parisian terms) and beaucoup de getting-lost opportunities).
– Bois de Boulogne (Plus: same as above, although a little bit smaller with its (still very) respectable 2,090 acres. Minus, doubles up as Paris’s red light district at night!)
With these tips, we hope you’ll have everything you need to be a smashing pique-nique success. The best of luck and bon appétit!
Written by Victoria Wall for the HiP Paris Blog. Looking for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, Provence, or Tuscany? Check out Haven in Paris.