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Jul 26, 2013 10:03 AM

The August attitude

There seems to be a disconnect between the locals' and visitors' expectations regarding August Paris dining.
The locals have for I don't know how long accepted the we'll-take-what-we-can-get attitude about Paris restaurant in August.
We accept that:
1. There are no traditional blanket closing date and blanket opening date.
2. We find out when we call to reserve.
3. When it comes to restaurants, or bakers, or butchers, etc., we accept that our first-choice establishments are likely going to go AWOL, but we won't starve, and won't even eat shabbily. Often it allows us to check out alternatives that might just delight us. I found my current fave butcher that way, in my August exile 2 years ago.

I urge visitors also to consider the August Paris food scene in this indulgent, open-minded way, and make an effort to streamline their list of conditions and likes and dislikes in their recommendation inquiries.

Dear visitors, since your are willing to do research, you will find great eats, but try not to have too narrow a focus, like Wagyu steak topped with Chinese Furu cheese with a side-order of pommes sarladaises with fat from Purple Dordogne goose followed by 48-monht Gruyère alpage followed by Anaïs strawberries, sinon rien. :)

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  1. And Parigi/Nancy me love, as Colette says, in August you can park anywhere.

    1. Great. So here's my question. We have the relative luxury of having an entire week in Paris (actually awww only a week) and a kitchen (flat in the 3rd) in which to cook market/traiteur finds, so we are totally planning to try figure out what/where/when to eat out when we get there, based loosely on information I've found in posts here. But maybe this is too laissez faire? My family are all great travellers but are inclined to get anxious when the source of their next meal is not fairly obvious and accessible (and delicious)... Also we are travelling a long way to get there so it would be sad to completely mess it up.

      2 Replies
      1. re: waver

        How could you possibly mess it up? Food is available in Paris even in August.

        1. re: waver

          Lots closed but equally lots open so you won't starve. What is tricky is giving a definitive list of what's is closed and when. Even if you live in the area you often don't know until they are closed and you read the little note in the window telling you when they will reopen. Usefully the note may often direct you to who is open - thus you can easily find a bakery, cheese shop, fish shop or pharmacy close by.

          The big shops like Bon Marche and Galleries Lafayette are open as are the regular markets. Some restaurants decide on their closing dates in advance (the Michelin guide is good for these details) but others go with the flow so you need to find out by trial and error. And remember that business owners are quite at liberty to change their minds to come back earlier or later.

        2. I just wish that all the Parisians would return to Paris in August.

          They descend upon our remote area, crowd the markets and restaurants while complaining about how 'rural' everything is and how inferior & backwards things are. They tend to be absolute menaces on our country roads.

          Thus, I'd be delighted if they all went back home and brought the city back up to speed again.

          I long for the back to school week every year.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Yank

            I'm forever amazed - France is a relatively big country (about the size of Texas), but I swear it's a minor miracle that the entire country doesn't list gently to the south in July and August, as that's where *everyone* goes for les vacances.

            There are so many stunningly beautiful areas in France -- and this isn't selling the south short at all...but you'd think someone would want to go somewhere different, and/or somewhere that isn't heaving with people.

            It does leave it possible to wander down the middle of the street in the middle of a weekday afternoon in Paris, though.

            My little town is bizarrely empty, as everyone's headed south...the stores are all locked up, with the rolling shutters closed always makes me think of one of those 80s movies where the heroine wakes up and discovers she's the only living soul left in the town and sets out to find out where they all went (NO! don't go UP the stairs!)

            1. re: Yank

              May I gladly destroy your delusion that you get any rest in the other months. This Parisian loves to go to the Lot in June and September.

            2. DH adores Paris in August when it is laid back and so different from its frenetic in-season alter-ego. Everyone who remains in town seems to be in good humor, having time for extended chat and a willingness to embrace or at least include those who are also (left/stuck) in town.

              For those who can only visit occasionally or whose travel only allows them to visit in August, it is understandably disappointing to find places they had hoped to visit shuttered. Of course they won't and don't starve, or even eat badly. But you have to see that they feel that they are visiting at a time when Paris is in some way incomplete.

              As Parigi points out, however, it is always a great idea to order and eat with eyes closed so as to discover that your palate is receptive to much more than what it would have encountered had your first choices been open.

              9 Replies
              1. re: mangeur


                It is easy to say "it's not so bad" or "its just one third (one THIRD) of our restaurants that are closed or "stop complaining" but when you dream about visiting somewhere and you are obsessed with food and you only have 1/3 of your choices not only of restaurants but other small food establishments e.g. bakeries or patisseries it is a BIG DEAL.

                If I lived in Paris, I probably would not notice it but I have only seen the Incomplete version of the city. I think it is very weird that everyone takes their vacation at the same time. Locals that I know blame this tradition on horrific traffic and even blame the high death toll in the heat wave of 2003 (14,000 deaths in France!!!) on the mass vacations but it still has not changed.

                I am a New Yorker and the thought of the city shutting down to any extent for more than 48 hours is incomprehensible. In fact, in certain neighborhoods, in the summer there is an exodus to Martha's Vineyard/the Hamptons and the city is quieter and calmer but most importantly, that is when you can get into some of the best restaurants.

                So, please, allow us to complain about having to eat at our third choice restaurant or our second choice cafe. We are tourists and foodies so It is a big deal to us.....

                1. re: t19103

                  you are talking about changing a significant aspect of culture - not just in France, but across Europe.

                  You'll have to adapt to them, because they're not going to change.

                  They find having only 2 weeks of vacation a year utterly incomprehensible, too.

                  1. re: t19103

                    Once I tried to book a table chez l'Ami Jean in December, not even near Xmas, and Jégo told me he was off for most of the month. Even before I could say anything, he cut me off and said: "it's sacred for me."
                    I am infinitely grateful for this city and its culture created by people who do wonderful things precisely because they work in order to live, and not the other way around.
                    If you are an epicurean visitor (am allergic to the word foodie, sorriest) who wants to enjoy the local food scne, you may want to bear in mind that
                    : your 2nd-choice or 3rd choice restaurants may not necessarily be 2nd-rate or 3rd-rate. Depending on the research, some visitors' first-choice restaurants are certainly not first-rate. L'Agrume, Les Papilles, L'As de Falafel jump to mind.

                    For August, Spring is open most of the month, and is not as crowded as the rest of the year.
                    Le Galopin and Vivant seem to be coordinating. When one is closed, the other is reopening, around mid month.
                    Le Richer reopens the 22, Dans Les Landes the 27.
                    Jeanne B stays open all month.
                    Just a handful of the restaurants that I like, and their situation in August…

                    1. re: t19103

                      "When you dream about visiting somewhere and you are obsessed with food"

                      - Then you find a way to be more flexible about the timing of your visit, instead of opining on the weirdness of the host culture.

                      1. re: shakti2


                        (or Brava, as the case may be)

                        1. re: shakti2

                          Agree - always good to structure visits around local customs.

                          We are deliberatly arriving early September because we enjoy the buzz in the city as the holidaymakers return full of energy and enthusiasm for the new work/school year. The lazy August gives leads to a really energetic September which makes it a great time to be in Paris with vibrant atmosphers in restaurants and bars

                          1. re: PhilD

                            The rentrée is a really enjoyable period (with the notable exception of buying the school supplies) -- it's a bit of a homecoming, as everyone returns to work and school and social activities -- we have been known to host an open house the first weekend in September, just so everyone can mingle and reacquaint.

                            1. re: PhilD

                              And the food in season in September ! The more than dozen kinds of mushroom ! Muscat grapes ! Game in late September ! I'm stuck on the exclamation mark key !

                              1. re: Parigi

                                One of the things I most love about living in Paris is the rhythm of the seasons in the kitchen...the ebb and flow of things as Nature offers them up, not a shipping company.

                      2. So agree that August has an exceptional pleasantness and is an ideal opportunity to explore-- very successfully-- outside of the narrow rut of routine and familiarity. On the food side, there is such an abundance of quality that every excellent restaurant, boulangerie, fromagerie etc has similarly good alternatives in walking distance. After all, Paris is not Tulsa, Oklahoma and the temporary closure of 30% of our restaurants/ shops in August is hardly a fatal blow given the large number of good restaurants/ shops that remain open. Compulsive planners and those that have irrationally fixed on this or that place as unmissable will, of course fret mightily and suppose that Paris in August in a wasteland. But the reality is very different.

                        My family spends most of August in Italy. I prefer to commute rather than migrate and usually just join them for long weekends. Mostly because of my job but also because August in Paris is almost like a holiday too.