Saturday, February 5, 2011

I love Paris in the summertime

Parisians tend to flee the city in the warmer months, making it the perfect time to enjoy parks, music festivals and art galleries – without the crowds

The choices for visitors to the city in summer are almost limitless. For those who enjoy lying around getting red-hot, there are the Paris-Plages from mid-July to mid-August, when stretches of the river Seine between the Pont Neuf and the Pont de Sully, and the Bassin de la Villette are transformed into oases of sun and sand. But for blue sky and balmy blooms, I prefer to take a leisurely stroll on the two-and-a-half mile Promenade Plantée, which runs from the Bastille, along a former railway viaduct, Viaduc des Arts (now full of craft boutiques, galleries and workshops), to the Bois de Vincennes. If I have any energy after that, the Bois de Vincennes has a zoo, floral park and boating on the lake. It's also the ideal spot for a lazy picnic lunch.

The Promenade Plantée features in the 2004 movie Before Sunset, as does cosy Le Pure Café (14, rue Jean Macé) in the 11th arrondissement, my favourite untouristy spot to sit outdoors with a cold drink. In the best pavement cafe stakes, a close contender is Chez Prune on rue Beaurepaire, where "bobo" (bourgeois/bohemian) regulars rub elbows on the peaceful banks of the Canal Saint Martin, with its metallic Venetian-style footbridges.

When I want to sit quietly and crack open a bottle of wine, I head for the Arènes de Luteces, the remains of a Greco-Roman amphitheatre, the oldest archaeological site in Paris, tucked away off rue Monge in the Latin Quarter. Last time I was there, on one side some old men were playing boules, and on the other a group of women were improvising an operatic lesbian version of Star Wars in French. Free theatre, in short.

At Paris's prettiest cinema, La Pagode (57, rue de Babylone), you can enjoy a glass of champagne in a lush Japanese-style garden full of lilies and bamboo. The cinema itself is a late-19th-century Japanese palace with paintings, gilding, tapestries, stained glass and chandeliers.

But if the temperatures are getting too much, cool off in the Ice Bar at L'Hôtel Kube (1-5 Passage Ruelle, in the 18th arrondissment). Here you can sip potent vodka in a refrigerated multi-coloured room at a numbing -10C (don't worry: sessions last just 30 minutes and parkas are provided.)

In summer, Paris offers something for lovers of all sorts of music. On 21 June, the whole city thrums and booms from dusk to dawn at the unmissable (and free) Fête de la Musique with multicultural ear candy at every bar, square and street corner, from lonesome crooners to world-class rock stars. The less-vaunted Paris Jazz Festival takes place every Saturday and Sunday in June and July, in the Park Floral, part of the Bois de Vincennes. This year, in addition to the main stage of jazz events, there'll be a "garden of improvisations" for more intimate recitals, musical landscaping and intuitive dancing.

There's no denying the Gypsy jazz buzz in Paris right now. One atmospheric hot spot is La Chope des Puces (122, rue Rosiers, +33 1 4011 0249) in the suburb of Saint Ouen – if you haven't shopped till you drop at the massive nearby flea market. And on rue Boyer in the 20th arrondissement are two more other savvy concert venues with eclectic programming of contemporary music: La Bellevilloise (19-21, rue Boyer, +33 1 4636 0707) was formerly Paris's first workers' co-operative; and La Maroquinerie (23, rue Boyer +33 1 4033 3505, was once a leather workshop. Both have charming terraces where you can enjoy cocktails and tapas.

This summer I will be seeking out cabaret – red velvet and carved wood, glittering lights, bevelled mirrors and glorious ballrooms. Cabaret Sauvage on avenue Jean Jaurès (+33 1 4209 1378, hosts world music, electro, techno, hip-hop, jazz, folk, funk, rock and reggae. Bobino (14-20 rue de la Gaîté, +33 1 4327 2424), a sexy offbeat option in Montparnasse, features a dinner show and dancers, magicians and illusionists performing into the early hours.

The directory of open-air opera La Barge (+33 1 5335 0777, ranges from opera to chamber and contemporary, comedy and cantatas - all were Performed On The barge dock Loire - Beside the Bassin de la Villette in The 19th. In Gégène (+33 1 4883 2943) a restaurant-cum-dancehall East of the city in Joinville le Pont On The Banks of the Marne river, has a more rural feel: you can eat it year outdoor terrace and dance till 2am to trad bal-musette, tango frenetic rock gold.

For a dose of art, as well as the major exhibitions (Turner, Munch, Yves Saint-Laurent), the recently launched Centquatre gallery ( on rue Curial, also in the 19th, is artistry at its best: a bold and energetic space complete with installations, exhibitions and open studios, not to mention readings, performances, theatre and concerts.

And what would Paris be without food? Don't miss the best open-air market near Bastille – the Marché d'Aligre. Choco-Story on boulevard Bonne Nouvelle, a new museum tracing the 4,000-year history of cacao in words, images and flavours (yes, you do get to sample some locally made chocolate.) And on the roof of the Palais de Tokyo modern art museum on avenue du Président Wilson, is the culinary phenomenon that is Art-Home, a temporary restaurant where scrumptious experimental food is prepared by a master chef before guests' eyes, if they can tear them away from the stunning views of the Eiffel Tower.


Post a Comment