As romantic as Paris might be in the rain, it’s a lot more pleasant in the summer. The long, warm summer days flow easily into perfect summer evenings. Mornings you relax at the corner café sipping espresso, crunching a fresh-baked croissant and planning your day ahead. Nights you can enjoy craft-beers, dance with friends at a discotheque or take a starry-night walk down the trendy Canal Saint Martin. As wonderful as Paris can be, it would be a shame to miss out on the absolute best that the summer in Paris has to offer.
Picnic on the Seine
You might not know this but our concept of the picnic is derived from the French pique-nique (pronounced more-or-less like its English counterpart). Originally, to pique-nique meant a group of people brought their own wine to a restaurant. The name was gradually introduced into French culture and likely conflated with the term “pique un niche” (find a spot).
When the parks of Paris were opened to the public after the French Revolution of 1789, the pique-nique as we know it today quickly became part of the Parisian landscape, with families escaping their small city apartments to enjoy the outdoors with a good bottle of wine and friends. The Parisians have been picnicking for over 200 years. It is unarguably the summertime pastime in this fashionable city, with many Parisians opting for the open-air ambiance of a picnic along the banks of the Seine River—a favoured locale for breaking bread with friends under the sunny skies. Just remember to pack the sunscreen!
Go Wine Tasting
Oenology (the science of wine) is something to indulge in while in Paris. Take a wine class to learn how to identify and appreciate wines from various regions in France and enjoy a selection of accompanying bouchées apéritives (finger foods) while learning the fundamentals of French oenology (cépages, terroirs, appellations) as well as how to identify aromas and pair wine with food.
Classes, like those offered by Wine Tasting in Paris, let you leave Paris knowing that the next time you need to bring a bottle to a dinner party, you can make an educated purchase at your local wine shop that will be sure to amaze all your friends.
Take a Cooking Class
There are countless cooking classes you could consider while in Paris, from learning how to make the perfect pâte brisée, to finding out the secrets to making a hearty, complexly flavoured country dish like ratatouille. Cooking classes are a wonderful way to experience Parisian culture. For those pinching pennies, the Fédération française de cuisine offers hundreds of free cooking classes from May through December. Classes happen in local farmer’s markets around the city. Chefs purchase fresh ingredients that day and create a recipe chosen by the daily theme.
Visit World-class Museums
It’s no secret that Paris is home to some of the world’s most extraordinary collections of art, in museums such as the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay. Of course, you’re going to spend some time in these museums, but they are vast, particularly the Louvre—it's nearly impossible to see everything in one visit.
Instead, minimize the time you spend wading through the crowds at the large museums and spend time in the smaller, more intimate and far less crowded museums. The Musée de l’Orangerie, near the Louvre at the west end of the Tullery Gardens, houses Claude Monet’s breathtaking Nymphéas (water lilies) and a fine collection of works by other Impressionist artists, while The Marmottan houses the largest collection of works by Monet as well as pieces by Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas and Edouard Manet.
Take a Day Trip to Giverny and Auvers-sur-oise
The serene landscape and constantly changing patterns of light along the Seine were a major source of inspiration for the many 19th century artists drawn to this region. In the morning, travel by bus from Paris to Auvers-sur-oise and discover the surrounding wheat fields and church made famous by Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Cezanne, and a number of other painters. Auvers is also the final resting place of Van Gogh where you can see his grave and home.
After exploring Auvers, continue to Giverny and visit the Musée des Impressionnismes as well as the Fondation Monet to visit the residence where Claude Monet lived for over 40 years. The world-famous gardens on site, restored to their original glory, were Monet's passion. See the setting that inspired the famous Water Lily paintings and visit the artist's home, where you will experience his eccentric taste in decoration.
Discover a piece of the rich history of Normandy by visiting the cobbled alleys and Norman-cathedral of the town of Bayeux and the unfathomable D-Day sites of World War II. The Bayeux Museum is home to the nearly 1,000-year-old, 70-meter-long Bayeux Tapestry that recounts how William the Conqueror defeated and seized England in 1066.
Afterwards, enjoy lunch in a local restaurant and taste some of the regional specialties, such as Norman cider and camembert cheese. In the afternoon, consider a four-hour guided bus tour of various World War II sites and memorials, including Omaha Beach, the Pointe du Hoc, and the U.S. cemetery in St. Laurent.
Immerse Yourself in the French Language
Want to make your summer in Paris even more memorable? Learn the Lingua Franca in an immersive French-language course and transform your stay in France into something truly life-changing. Programs, such as the Summer French Language Immersion Program at The American University of Paris, offer carefully crafted 3-week or 6-week summer courses that provide rigorous instruction and comprehensive grammar and vocabulary guidance while improving your pronunciation. At the same time, because of your location in the heart of Paris, these courses make possible a one-of-a-kind, first-hand immersive experience into French language and culture, taking your language learning far beyond the classroom. For more information about The American University of Paris, or to learn about the other summer classes they offer, such as Creative Writing or Painting, visit their website: https://www.aup.edu/academics/summer
Oh la la. Summer in Paris. C’est cool, non?
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