I thought it was the Grand Finale as I watched the Eiffel Tower Bastille day fireworks show from afar perched on a rooftop, but I was wrong. The show went on for another 20 minutes. The national holiday is always unforgettable, usually paired with a live orchestra, a “pique nique” with friends on the Champs de Mars, a light show and world class “artifices de feu.”
Paris is like the fireworks, just when you think it’s over—a new show of light and gold begins and causes you to stand in wonder. I’ve coined the term “gold dipping” to describe the moments of beauty, connection and the feeling that Paris is flirting with you. Not everyday is a gold-dipping day. (Some days you have to do taxes or grocery shopping.) Yet, summer in the city of lights is full of a refined sense of being. Everyone is falling back in love with life.
Summer in the city of lights is full of a refined sense of being. Everyone is falling back in love with life.
This is my eighth summer technically in Paris. I’ve lived in the city of lights as a permanent resident for four years but I’ve spent previous summers traveling, babysitting and studying abroad here, falling slowly in love with the language and French way of life. It’s a bittersweet ending as I prepare to move back to California in the fall, but there’s still time for one last summer season in Paris.
It seems like every season of the year seems to point to summer. 2020 has been unpredictable to say the least. This summer Paris is “sans touristes,” the global capital of tourism is empty of her visitors and admirers. Locals are rediscovering her charm after a long season of confinement.
The French are known for their notoriously long “vacances” in August, leaving the streets empty and local shops closed. Parisians and locals typically flee the city for the sunny south and country homes while tourists take over and flood into the hotspots like Notre Dame and the Arc de Triomphe.
Embedded in French culture and nature is the value of time for rest. In fact, the government by law requires full-time workers to take at least five weeks vacation, on top of public holidays throughout the year. They also have a 35-hour work week giving them an additional 22 days in addition to these five weeks. Coming from a nation of workaholics and the American pioneer spirit, it seems absurd to take so much time off, but I have learned accessibility to beauty doesn’t cost much here. You don’t have to be an elite or millionaire to enjoy life in all its fullness.
Embedded in French culture and nature is the value of time for rest.
The French society lives on less. People are not obsessed with how much they own or concerned by saving accounts but rather where they will spend their “vacances” and with whom. I was pleasantly surprised by my first full summer in Paris by this nature of rest and recreation, and I have learned to practice the phrase “prenez le temps,” which translates to “take the time.” They value presence and pleasure over profit.
Perhaps Americans have something to learn from the French in how we can “do” summer, as if it’s a verb and not a noun. Paris offers an accessible quality of life I’ve yet to find anywhere else in the world. No matter what your economic situation may be, anyone can run to La Boulangerie and find a baguette for one euro, a decent quality red wine for three euros and some Camembert cheese to take to La Seine at sunset to watch the golden light on the water with friends.
Summer in Paris is for me is truly a time of deep rest and reconciliation with lost time throughout the year. It’s a time of creation, curiosity, community and stillness. Hemingway puts it best in his memoir written while living as a struggling journalist expat in the 1920s, “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young [woman], then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”