Posted by: theresegilardi | July 28, 2011

French Fridays – Sultry Summer Parks

Bonjour mes amis and welcome back for another French Friday! So it’s summertime, which means the livin’ is sultry if you happen to be in Paris. Come late July/early August, the normally formally attired Parisians toss aside their ties and tight skirts in favor of (impeccably pressed) cotton clothes and take to les parcs as the Celsius degrees climb. On street corners, apartments, cafes, restaurants, and hotels throughout the city, residents and tourists alike seek shady spots to while away lazy hours below a big sun that sits high in the sky until late in the evening.

Fortunately the ominous signs reading “pelouse interdit” that forbade setting foot on, let alone sitting atop, the green grass of Paris’s many pretty public parks, a prohibition that made my life with small children very challenging back in the day, are now few and far between. So there’s no excuse for not making a visit to a piece of Parisian paradise part of your summer itinerary. For a flavor of old France, visit the Jardin du Luxembourg, the formal gardens behind the French Senate. Bring a few euros to ride the swings – yes, you have to pay, rent a tiny sailboat you can push across the little pond with a wooden stick, just like generations of Parisian schoolchildren, and amble around the dusty paths, past the lovely statues, including a tiny replica of the Statue of Liberty. Extra bonus: in addition to a finely stocked snack bar, the Jardin du Luxembourg has clean (fee-paying) public rest rooms.

If you really want to cool off, hop the metro, line 1, direction La Defense, and get off at Les Sablons in Neuilly-sur-Seine, home to President Nicolas Sarkozy. It’s just beyond the city’s western edge, but a world away – you won’t believe the quiet, the clean air (best not to think about that – you didn’t realize how dirty the capitol was, did you?) and the number of small, carnival-like rides. Don’t let their diminutive stature fool you – the roller coaster really packs a punch. It’s a fun afternoon outing which will enable you to enjoy a few hours in a beautiful small city, get a glimpse of French family life, and be back in the heart of Paris within fifteen minutes.

But maybe your time and tastes take you farther east. Or you’re looking for a more raw, urban park experience. If so, don’t miss Buttes Chaumont in the nineteenth arrondissement (but make it during the day). The view of the city from the buttes is sublime, and the walk across suicide bridge is sure to help you work up an appetite for an aperitif.

I love visiting public parks in the summer: not only do they provide a chance to cool off, but there’s also the opportunity to meet the locals. Where do you like to seek shade when traveling in the hot weather?

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