Assumption Day

There is a term in France (of course) for people who take off all of July, “juilletistes” and people who take off all of August “aoûtiens.”

Today is the height of the Paris vacation season, Assumption Day. The aoûtiens are away but the juilletistes have also left again for the long weekend, for the beach, for towns in the country, for other European destinations like Croatia and Italy.

Bistros, bakeries, restaurants, coffee shops, hair salons, all close for at least two weeks, and this is the time when the greatest number overlap. I like to read the taped up signs.

“To our dear clientele…”

“We love you. See you August 22.”

Even though the tourist-to-Parisian ratio is wildly out of whack, as it is every August, there are fewer this year, and this makes the city feel even emptier. The owner of a bike tour told me last week their business is down by 30 percent. Simultaneously, security is heightened — the last thing the government needs is another attack that will scare tourists away — and the emptiness makes the soldiers and armed police patrolling the tourist hot-spots along the Seine even more visible. Since Nice, they also block roadways with police-vans.

It has been a long, strange summer.

Still, certain corners of the city are perfect. It is a great week to try the restaurants that are still open, places normally too crowded to get a table without a long wait. There’s suddenly breathing room on the tiny sidewalks in the Marais. There is the Institut Suedois, where you can borrow beach chairs and sit in the back garden while the building is under renovation, eavesdrop on the mix of languages, read during the long Paris golden hours of late summer.

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