I’ve been to Paris in every month of the year. June and July are prime tourist months--in August Parisians leave, things close and the least savvy tourists show up—but I avoid the City if Lights in summer, along with the crowds and heat (air-conditioning is still a novelty there). Spring and fall are lovely times to wander the streets and visit the famous, infamous and countless free sights. Still, there’s something about being there in the winter that makes me feel like a Parisian.
We always rent a flat in a residential section of the 6th or 7th arrondissement because the scale of the streets and buildings of this old part of the city are so much more intimate than the grand boulevards across the Seine. I love to shop in the food hall of Le Bon Marche to stock our kitchen and run out for a baguette or pain aux raisins each morning as the neighbors do. When tourists are scarce, everyone treats you like you belong there. The pace is slower and the shopkeepers friendlier.
As for the city’s famous tourist sites, without the hoards--busload after busload of foreigners descend on these places for morning to night in other months—one can wander alone through galleries in the Louvre, tour sections of Versailles the general public never sees, and walk the deserted Luxembourg Gardens in the magical winter sunshine.
Except for one cold snap many years ago, the winter temperatures are not usually harsh—more Washington D.C. than Boston. And the country-wide mid-January sales are an extravagant experience I’m glad I’ve done once. But sitting in front of a blazing fire sipping a warm cognac, being a part of French city life if only for a short time—that’s why I love Paris in the winter.
Do you have a favorite winter travel destination? What is it and why do you love it?