Exactly NOW is the best time to be in Paris. Of course, I can just hear people disagree…
Travel blogs and rom-coms have been singing the praise of Paris in springtime since the beginning of time. Think Audrey Hepburn, the Eiffel Tower seen through a curtain of cherry flowers and accordion music in the background.
Tourist guides are telling us: “Go to Paris in summer! Less traffic, less rude Parisians, you have the city all to yourself!” Think Paris-Plages, warm nights, picnics by the Seine and drinks on a rooftop overlooking the city.
Some of my friends try to give me solace when I struggle with the wet grayness between November and April. “But winter is the best time to be in Paris,” they say. “Less tourists and there’s so much happening!” Think museums, shows and all the new restaurants to try out.
Bien sûr, that’s all true and yet I insist: the best time to be in Paris is early September.
Why the time is now
First of all, Paris in September is glorious. The late summer sun paints a golden glow on gray buildings. The light over the Seine is ridiculously romantic. The days are cooler, but it’s still warm enough to sit in the sun, to lose yourself on long walks in the evening, to dine al fresco at one of those tiny restaurant tables on the sidewalk. The markets stalls are an orgy of produce, fruit, cheese, pastries, meat, wild mushrooms and wine.
But that’s not the real reason. The real reason is something that is happening now, exactly now, something as unique and as typically French as a baguette, the Eiffel Tower, red wine and l’amour toujours.
La rentrée is upon us
Officially, la rentrée in France is nothing more than the end of summer holidays and the beginning of a new school year. But that’s like saying that the Eiffel tower is just a couple of tons of steel or Paris is just another capital in Europe.
Non, non, you have to live in Paris to understand: La rentrée is a magical time.
Why I love la rentrée…
La rentrée transforms Paris overnight.
We are coming out of what is called euphemistically la pause d’été when, between July 15th and August 31st, work will most likely not get done, the local bakery will most likely not be open, and you’d better make sure that you won’t need a dentist. Paris is lounging at the beach. The neighborhood looks like a ghost city.
Enter September 1st. La rentrée waves her magic wand and everything springs to life: the bakery is open again (“Bonjour Madame! Alors, les vacances?”), tanned neighbours chat on the street (“Tiens, bonjour Madame. Alors, les vacances?”) My inbox is filled with messages (“Salut ma belle. Alors, les vacances? ”). Everywhere, you can see children with their mamans getting ready for school, buying school supplies and bustling around – a joyful and slightly chaotic ritual. La rentrée littéraire releases hundreds of new books. Life has returned… and so has my dentist (“Bonjour Madame. Alors, …”)
How to make the most of your rentrée
Le rentrée is France’s answer to January 1st: a true feeling of a fresh start, of a new and sparkling energy.
La rentrée. The season of renewal.
In a couple of weeks, we’ll all be running around again. But right now, I say savor la rentrée and surf on the joie de vivre in the city. Start a new activity, make new friends – there’s hardly a time in the year when Parisians are so refreshed, so relaxed, so easy-going. Go ahead, buy yourself an agenda that starts on September 1st and prove to yourself that now is the time to change what you’ve always wanted to change.
And don’t forget to celebrate this time of magical new beginnings. Get on the phone and call your friends “Coucou! Alors les vacances?” Meet for an apéro on a rooftop or for lunch in that new restaurant, lure your best friend into some lèche-vitrine to check out all the fresh and shining window displays after the ravages of the summer sales, have very un-Parisian belly laughs and celebrate the spirit of la rentrée.
(This article first appeared in www.inspirelle.com)