August Is When Uptight Paris Unbuttons a Few More Buttons

The French capital empties out in August, but still has energy—just a different sort.

August in Paris is over, and I miss it already. The deadest month, the most quiet, the month when Parisians leave on their endless holidays and the city empties out like a resort in the off season, only less melancholy. Traffic thins; shops close, sometimes for the entire month; restaurants shut; there are seats to be found on the metro; and in the evening, stragglers (not everyone can afford to go away) emerge from their stuffy, un-air-conditioned apartments and gather along the banks of the Seine.

In August, this uptight city unbuttons a few more buttons.

One warm evening, I walked a good stretch of riverfront promenade, and the scene was joyous. Families out for a walk; kids climbing on climbing walls; couples embracing; friends at picnic tables eating from Tupperware; tourists taking pictures of wounded Notre-Dame, without her spire, encased in scaffolding; South Asian men selling bottles of beer and chilled rosé from backpacks—“Du vin, madame?”—people of all ages and colors dancing with abandon to Michael Jackson’s Thriller on a makeshift dance floor near the Pont Neuf, like wild teenagers letting it loose while their parents are out of town.

The bakery near my apartment was closed for the first three weeks of August. Three weeks! For a while, when I looked out my apartment windows in the evenings, nary a light was on in the building across the street. Even Google knows it is August in Paris. Gmail recently offered some canned responses to an invitation I’d received. Its options: “I’ll be there!” “I’ll come!” and “I’m on vacation!” I managed to get a table, without waiting, at one of the best restaurants in Paris

The French government shuts down in August, too. It is not uncommon for high-level officials with sensitive dossiers in important ministries to take three or four weeks off, without checking email. The entire country operates on what’s basically an academic schedule. In May and June, people start making appointments for after the rentrée—that is, September. Employees have seven weeks of paid holiday time (albeit with lower pay than their counterparts elsewhere).

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40 Ways to Spot an American Abroad

When you’re walking down the street in your hometown, how easy is it to notice someone that’s not from there? While it can be a little tough when you live in a smaller town, larger towns are pretty dang easy. Sometimes, they’re wearing a big backpack or a Camelback water bottle. Sometimes, it’s as easy as walking near them and hearing their accents. Depending on where you live, they may be speaking another language entirely! Naturally, that makes it even more obvious that they’re not from your city.

With that being said, we Americans are the same way. If you’ve talked to someone from another country, they’ll almost always tell you that it’s easy to spot an American abroad. It’s not our fault that we’re proud of who we are! We think we’re pretty awesome. Across the globe, not everyone will agree with that sentiment, however. Our culture makes it obvious who we are, just like many other countries out there.

If you’re the type that doesn’t want to stick out like a sore thumb, we made a list of a few things to try and avoid. They’re stereotypical aspects of an average American traveler that make someone realize instantly who we are and where we’re from.

Before we get started, we want to say that we’re not saying there’s anything wrong with being American. We have a lot to be proud of in our beautiful country, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have our fair share of eccentricities and oddities that can rub other cultures the wrong way. Every culture is different, after all! When you’re visiting somewhere else, it’s always better to abide by their customs. In fact, it’s highly encouraged to make your trip even better. Here are 40 sure-fire ways that other people spot an American abroad!

See slideshow at: 40 Ways to Spot an American Abroad

France in focus – The other D-Day: 1944 Provence landings

This week, France in Focus heads to the southern port city of Toulon, which is home to the French Navy’s main base. It was here on August 15, 1944, that the Allied invasion of southern France began. We take a closer look at just what happened and explore the various efforts being made today, 75 years later, to ensure the memory of those events lives on.

Source: France in focus – The other D-Day: 1944 Provence landings