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August 2023 Newsletter
Les vacances (French vacations) have arrived!
While it’s not quite August yet, things are winding down in France, and the juilletistes (July vacationers) are still out of town, while the aoûtiens (August vacationers) are either packed and ready to go…or have already left.
Paris is no longer the ghost town it once was in August—so if you’re visiting, no need to worry; some restaurants, cafés, and bakeries remain open. And while tourism is substantially up, locals have cleared out, so many neighborhoods (outside of the touristed areas) are more enjoyable. So feel free to explore areas away from the Eiffel Tower, Montmartre, central Marais, and the Saint-Germain-des-Prés. And the outdoor markets are open as well, although you’ll find a lot fewer vendors at them the second and third weeks of August—because they want their vacation too.
If you want to do some exploring in Paris, interesting areas include the Upper Marais (rue de Bretagne) and rue Montorgueil, which are visitor-friendly but still have a neighborhood vibe. I also like the 9th and 10th arrondissements, or any of the other double-digit arrondissements, but parts of them may be a little scruffy because they’re not spiffed up for visitors. The 11th (where I live) is where a lot of the new restaurants are, and there are a lot of smaller restaurants on the rue Saint-Maur that leads to Père Lachaise cemetery, which never closes for vacation.
The Louvre and the d’Orsay museums are packed year-round now, but there are lots of smaller museums around town that are fascinating and offer a more detailed experience of France, such as the Musée des Arts et Métiers and the Musée Chasse et Nature, which focus on science and engineering, and nature and hunting, respectively. Even if you don’t think you’re interested in those subjects, trust me, you will be.
Other favorite museums of mine that are a little more off-the-beaten-path (and decidedly more offbeat) are the Musée de la Contrafaçon (Museum of Counterfeits) and the Musée de Fragonard d’Alfort (Veterinary Museum), the latter of which is not for everyone. But if you can handle animal science and want to do something non-touristy, there ya go.
So far, Paris has been spared the brutal heatwave that’s been broiling southern Europe. Most European cities aren’t designed to handle the heat, and there don’t seem to be cohesive plans to adapt, so people are braving and sweltering through heat that’s risen to 46ºC/114ºF, and a researcher on natural hazards compared southern Europe to a giant pizza oven. As I write this, it’s about 20-23ºC (68-73ºF) in Paris, and for once, no one is complaining about the cool temperatures since we see our neighbors in other European countries trying to cope with the intense heat, which is especially tough on older people who don’t have fans or AC and are told not to go outside, where it’s even hotter.
They’re saying in a few decades, temperatures in Paris could rise to up to 50ºC/122ºF, and winemakers in France are already feeling the brunt of the heat with lower production, which means that Champagne is getting some competition from good-quality sparkling wines made in England, and French champagne houses are buying vineyards in England due to the cooler climate.
But the focus right now in Paris isn’t on wine—although rosé consumption has increased roughly 450% at our house—but on ice cream, with people lining up at the ice cream shops around town, which are better than ever. In addition to the classics, we’ve also got Italian granitas and gelato, Lebanese ice creams with mastic and pistachios, house-made ice cream cones made of einkorn wheat (and dipped in dark chocolate, bien sûr…), and more!
I’ve listed my favorites here:
Feel free to bookmark them for your next trip!
What I’m Reading and Watching
When you write, oddly, you don’t have much time to read. In my defense, it’s sometimes just more relaxing to park myself on the couch and watch a movie or TV show, which I did this month when I got hit with the flu. I finished Succession, whose premise I tried to explain to Romain; a show about a dysfunctional family that has access to a huge amount of money and power, who somehow we feel manage to feel sorry for.
The French aren’t necessarily sympathetic to the plights of the rich and powerful, which they effectively demonstrated during the French Revolution, although Dallas was a huge hit in Europe, and I remember traveling back then and some people outside the United States actually thought that “Dallas” was how we all lived in America. Personally, I’d rather live like the folks in Dynasty, especially if I could witness these kinds of spats, like this one between Alexis and Dominique Devereaux…
(I do like how they gave Diahann Carroll’s character a French name…as if she needed to be any more classy!)
While I was laid up for a few days with a debilitating flu, in my feverish haze, I dug into Netflix to watch Tiger King. It didn’t seem like my kinda show, and I remember when it came out, everybody was talking about it. So I finally watched it and wasn’t prepared for the disturbing, jaw-dropping (no pun intended), dangerous, and litigious, cast of characters, with something new being revealed about each person in every episode. Since I couldn’t seem to shake the flu I had, I had some time so started in on Season 2 and could feel my brain cells eroding - but was glad to see a positive outcome for some of the animals. But those people…yikes.
To clear my head, I watched the moderately fun Wham! documentary. The story of two childhood friends making it big was mostly interesting for the archival footage they dug up of them when they were just starting out. I suspect there were some conflicts no one wanted to air, particularly when they split, as George Michael became a superstar. But maybe everything was actually just as hunky-dory as they said.
I did like the controversial Beef, partially because I’m a fan of the two main actors. The storyline centers around two people whose lives are forever changed by a road-rage incident that won’t quit. And for something lighter, Wanda Sykes’ stand-up special, I’m an Entertainer on Netflix, is a great way to escape for an hour.
And yes, I want to see the new Barbie movie. Have you heard about it?😉
I have a stack of books I’ve been working my way through, slowly. After finishing Gulp (thanks to a nod from), a lighthearted yet remarkably well-researched read on how our alimentary tracts work (warning: there are graphic descriptions about how things go in, and out, of our bodies), I finally started the much-heralded Crying in H Mart. The story is quite moving, and I’m saving the second half of the book for some upcoming travel.
Other summer reads on deck are Hello, Molly! by Molly Shannon, Your Table Is Ready, where a prominent New York City maître d’ spills some beans, and Little Fires Everywhere, which I’ve been meaning to read since I read the very well-written Everything I Never Told You by the same author, Celeste Ng.
And lastly, speaking of travel…
I’ll be taking a break from now through the rentrée, which is in early September. So there will be no newsletter from now until then.
If you are a Paid Subscriber, your subscription has been extended an additional month to make up for the time I’m away.
Hope you all have a great summer, and see you soon!
Links I’m Liking
-You could “Be The Chef” at Benihana…for $300.
-Great photos in a story about people in Florida who have so many mangoes. (NYT/unlocked)
-Plans to make the Seine swimmable. (EuroNews)
-Eli Zabar talks about pioneering “Parisian” bread in America and defends the $29 ham & cheese sandwich. (Taste)
-Study finds train fares in Europe can be 30 times more expensive than flying. (CNN)
-Employees at the iconic Anchor Brewery in San Francisco offer to buy the business to keep it from closing. (Vinepair)
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