Once upon a time, there was a beautiful city called Paris. Paris was the fairest city in the land. Her buildings were the grandest, her citizens were the chicest, and her parks were the most symmetrical. Her people loved her. Even tourists adored her, seduced by her beauty and baguettes. Some tried to emulate her in both style and manner, but some just admired her from a discreet emotional distance, knowing that their Crocs and cargo shorts rendered them Other.
Paris worked hard to for her citoyens. Through the long cold winter, she provided cozy cafés and scintillating museum exhibits, warm concert halls and lively bars. Her chocolat chaud caused some to forget their wet shoes and her steak frites soothed weary souls.. Les fumeurs and the Vitamin-D deprived were the bravest, huddling at tiny sidewalk tables with thimble-sized coffee cups, seeking open air and sunshine. She rewarded them with periodic watery rays of light, and they adored her for it.
In the spring, she let the sun remain a little longer each day, and Parisians rushed to meet it. They threw themselves on the grass in parks, removing their clothing as much as common decency would allow. More tables appeared in front of cafés, and were quickly filled by non-smokers and dogs. Rosé, strawberries, and peas graced the tables.
Top: John Canelis / Robin Benzrihem. Bottom: Hans Vivek
Summertime came, and Paris pulled out all the stops. Schools closed, children disappeared to grand-mère’s, and the remaining adults celebrated long into the night with Gay Pride, la Fête de la Musique, Bastille Day, and many, many World Cup celebrations. Parisians were drunk on sunlight and pastis, sleeping little and partying much.
Even when this year’s ever-present, strikes grew tiresome, Paris indifferently claimed, If you don’t love me with my strikes, you don’t deserve me with my macarons. And even when the lines at the construction-clogged Eiffel Tower stretched around the block, Paris tossed her hair and dared tourists not to come. They came.
It was too much. It was too long.
One day in late July, Paris grew sleepy. The soldes were winding down; it hadn’t rained in weeks. No one had slept enough in months. The long, hot days and short nights had taken their toll. She briefly wondered, is that all there is? Then murmured get out to her people and quickly fell into a deep sleep. Many of her people did as she said, fleeing to the south, where they worked on their tasteful tans (nothing as extreme as their leathery neighbors; more of a sun-kissed bronze) or à la campagne, where they lounged under trees, sipped even more rosé, and ate sturdy bread with crushed tomatoes and olive oil.
Top: Giuseppe Mondi / John Towner. Bottom: Jez Timms
Some Parisians chose to remain and uphold the dignity and elegance of Paris as she snoozed, and they cycled through the silent streets, a crusty tradition or a Jack Russell terrier in their basket. They visited out-of-the-way museums, free from crowds. They pique-niqued at Paris Plage and went to music and film festivals. They shopped at different bakeries and butchers and markets, because their usual ones were closed. They sipped even more rosé on rooftops and terraces and explored new restaurants. They found themselves in an uncrowded, secret Paris known only to locals (as long as they avoided the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower and the Champs Elysees, where Crocs and cargo shorts still reigned supreme).
Near the end of August, Paris awoke, refreshed and renewed. She thought of the coming autumn: crisp navy blue school uniforms, exquisitely complicated scarf knots, trim suits with bindingly white shirts and no tie. She thought of golden leaves, cool breezes, chilly walks along the Seine and vin chaud. She thought of posters in the metro hallways advertising new events to come.
Paris stretched. It was time to get back to work, and she was ready. Some people need springtime to feel reborn, but Paris just needs La Rentrée.
Anna Ogiienko / Anthony Intraversato
- Looking for somewhere new to go for afterwork apéros? Check out our picks for the best rooftop bars in Paris.
- If you want to discover the uncrowded secret Paris, read about getting Paris right the second time-round.
- For more about la rentrée, head over to Mama Loves Paris.