Archive for the 'summer' Category

Bonnes Vacances !

August 1, 2012

Store Window, Saint Paul, The Marais

Bonnes vacances ! – Have a good vacation!
les vacances
– vacation, holidays

tranquille – quiet, calm, peaceful
une boulangerie – bakery
tant pis
– too bad
le métro – the Paris subway
l’heure de pointe – rush hour
la foule – crowd
le quai – quay
du monde – (many) people
il n’y a pas grand monde – there’s hardly anybody; there aren’t many people
une complicité – understanding, complicity

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“Les gens s’étonnent toujours que vous ne quittiez pas Paris l’été, sans comprendre que c’est précisément parce qu’ils le quittent que vous y restez.”
(“People are always surprised that you don’t leave Paris in the summer. They don’t understand that it’s precisely because they leave it, that you stay.”)
– Henry de Montherlant



It’s August 1st!  For many Parisians, that means one thing – it’s time for les vacances!  As I write this, Paris’ year-round inhabitants are fleeing the city in droves, abandoning it willingly to starry-eyed tourists and the handful of residents who are staying behind. The next 31 days promise to be tranquille, as stores, boulangeries and businesses close up shop, often to the perplexed frustration of August visitors to the city.  My friend Andrew, for example, got here last Sunday and immediately started calling around to make restaurant reservations – only to discover that virtually all the eateries on his list… which he had oh-so-carefully researched and notated for his long-anticipated vacation… are closed.  For the entire month.  (I tactfully refrained from pointing out that if he had been reading my blog, he’d have already known about Paris in August, though I guess, technically, I’m now pointing it out here. Ahem.)

It’s all so very French in attitude. Even Berthillon, the world-famous artisanal ice cream maker—who could easily make a killing during high tourist season—closes its doors during the month. Some things are sacred, after all. Money or not, August is designated for les vacances. Tant pis.  The tourists will just have to get their ice cream elsewhere.

This marks my third August in Paris and I’m looking forward to it. No impossibly jam-packed métro during l’heure de pointe. No fighting the foule at the supermarket. Crowded, narrow sidewalks that are normally overrun with people are free and clear for strolling and il n’y a pas grand monde along the quai de la Seine. As long as you stay away from the main tourist attractions, it feels as if the city is suddenly at your disposal.


Room for quiet contemplation on the quai de la Seine

There’s an unspoken, friendly complicité between all us Parisians who are left behind to wander the city streets – as we go about our daily routines, we cross paths and exchange knowing, sympathetic glances with each other. Yes, for whatever reason, we have not been able to leave the city for les vacances along with the others. But we also share something else in common: a delightful little secret. For the next month at least, the city belongs entirely to us, and to us alone.

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Fifty Shades of Grey

July 3, 2012
Not even the rainy weather could deter these tourists from admiring la belle Tour Eiffel from the outlook at Trocadero Gardens.

C’est penible – it’s horrible; it’s awful
la météo – the weather report
Météo France – France Weather, the French national weather bureau
grisaille – grey (and dreary) weather
temps pluvieux – rainy weather
le moral – morale
la pluie, toujours la pluie – rain, rain and more rain
lunettes de soleil – sunglasses
un maillot de bain – a bathing suit
une terrasse – a terrace, a patio
un accessoire de mode – fashion accessory
un parapluie – an umbrella
Paname – an affectionate French nickname for Paris
SNCF – France’s national state-owned railway company
ensoleillé(e)(s) – sunny
desinations ensoleillées – sunny destinations
se changer les idées – to clear one’s head; to take one’s mind off of things
réchauffer le cœur – to warm the heart
le paysage – landscape
la crème solaire – sunscreen
une robe d’été – summer dress
le soleil – sun
spontanément – impulsively, in the moment
un boucle – a loop
un boucle à véloa bike trip; a bike tour
les champs de lavande – the lavender fields
se faire du bien – to do one good (me faire du bien – to do me good)

 

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« En juin, trop de pluie, et le jardinier s’ennuie. »
(“Too much rain in June and the gardener languishes.”)
– French saying


This spring and summer has been one of the rainiest that Paris has seen in a very long time. Day after day, I wake up, throw open the window and look hopefully up at the sky, only to be greeted with endless clouds of grey and an unrelenting rain that continues to fall without pity. C’est pénible.

From April 1 to June 21, Paris received 330 mm of rain.  In June alone, the city recorded 98.5 mm of rainfall – nearly twice the normal average for this time of year. Last week, Météo France confirmed it—this June has been one of the rainiest Paris has seen in the last 50 years. On June 21, we hit 48 days of rain since the beginning of spring.  June 24 marked 49.  I’m starting to feel like I’m living out some kind of alternate and, sadly for me, much less racy version of Fifty Shades of Grey – or rather, Fifty Shades of Grisaille.

All this temps pluvieux has not been good for le moral.  “Je n’en peux plus de ce temps merdique !” my friend Jen texted me the other day in despair. (“I can’t take any more of this sh*tty weather!”)  It’s a sentiment shared by many. I have a new appreciation for the lyrics to the early 90s pop song by French group Au P’tit Bonheur : “J’veux du soleil ! J’veux du soleil ! J’veux du soleil !” (“I want sun! I want sun! I want sun!”) Continue reading »

Happy Fête Nationale!

July 14, 2011


la fête nationale – the national celebration, France’s “Independence Day”; known in the English-speaking world as “Bastille Day”
le 14 juillet
 – the 14th of July (the French national holiday)
les soldes – the sales
je pars en week-end – I’m going away for the weekend

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Happy 14 juillet everybody!  I’m currently working on a new post about the summer soldes that I’ll be publishing soon, but for those of you who are new to The Vanishing Point and interested in learning more about this French national holiday, be sure to check out last year’s posts, Le Bal des pompiers and La Fête nationale.

I’ll be catching the fireworks display tonight at the Eiffel Tower, one of my favourite summer events in this beautiful city, then je pars en week-end to the seaside town of Deauville. I can’t wait to hit the beach!

Hope you all have a great weekend!

31 Days Later

August 19, 2010


Store Window, Montmartre, Paris

les vacances – vacation
une fermeture – closure
la Mairie de Paris – Paris City Hall
un embouteillage –  traffic jam
le supermarché
– supermarket, grocery store
une fermeture exceptionnelle – unexpected or extended closure; an “exceptional” closure, outside of the regular operating schedule
l’Hôtel de Ville
– City Hall
la plage – beach
les quais de la Seine – the quays of the Seine

******

Do you remember the creepy opening scenes of the film 28 Days Later?  They caused a stir among critics and sent a chill down the spines of audience members everywhere because they depicted, in very realistic fashion, the always-bustling London landmarks, Westminster Bridge, Piccadilly Circus and Oxford Street, utterly devoid of human life.  The simple, surreal absence of people in such famously and characteristically overcrowded spots was eerier than anything Jerry Bruckheimer could have pulled out of his bag of over-the-top tricks.

Well, those famous scenes are kind of what Paris feels like in August.  Public spaces that are normally bursting to overflowing with people now appear vast and empty.  While passing through the central métro station Châtelet the other day, I could have sworn I heard the opening theme from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly playing as a piece of tumbleweed drifted by.

Continue reading »

The Champs-Élysées Goes Green and a Picnic at the Place des Vosges

June 15, 2010


la Ville Lumière – “The City of Light”; a common nickname for Paris, in reference to the ideas of the city’s philosophers during the Age of Enlightenment (and, some say, to its early adoption of street lighting)
un quartier – neighbourhood
se retrouver – to meet up (with each other)
Quel truc de ouf ! – “What a crazy stunt!” *
faire un pique-nique to have a picnic
Et si on se faisait un pique-nique? Why don’t we have ourselves a little picnic?

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“This afternoon I will go to les Champs Élysées. They have transformed it to a big garden for the week end.”


I squinted groggily at the message on my cell phone, the words on the tiny LCD screen slowly swimming into focus.  Roused just seconds before from a near catatonic sleep by a lo-fi version of the Beatles’ Revolution (theme song and ring tone for Orange, my service provider), I wasn’t yet operating at a fully-cognitive level.  The wheels in my brain screeched loudly in protest as they sluggishly kicked into gear.  I blinked again, still processing, then sat up straight in bed.

Did I want to see Paris’ most famous avenue and busiest autoroute transformed into a giant garden?  You bet your fancy Hermès scarf I did.

I shook the last traces of sleep off and quickly texted my friend Sebastien back.  “When and where do you want to meet?

The famous Avenue des Champs-Élysées, sometimes referred to by Parisians as “la plus belle avenue du
monde” (“the most beautiful avenue in the world”), is often choked with traffic. Photo courtesy Julian So.

Continue reading »

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