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It’s August when many middle and upper class Parisian families flee the city like lemmings, leaving it to others. People can even drive and don’t have to be NASCAR drivers to actually circumvent the Etoile. It still takes nerves. But drivers don’t fear for their lives as much as they do when tout Paris is rushing as if there’s no tomorrow. The drivers’ code may specify “priority from the right.” Call it what you may but think unmitigated chaos. Tourists have been known to ditch cars in the middle of the Place de l’Étoile for fear of killing and being killed.
During August, if you hear traffic-related complaints, more than likely they’ll come from taxi drivers who aren’t champions of the man-made beach, the Paris Plage, where tons and tons of white sand are trucked in and dumped along the Seine. It’s a happening scene and truly a sight. Tourists can catch some rays plus it’s where those who don’t have summer homes may gravitate to cool off and enjoy a picnic ensemble.
The beach opened on July 21st for its third year and the season has been extended by a week and will close August 20th. In addition, the city supplies deck chairs, chaises and colorful parasols.
Cyclists and rollerblade aficionados zoom along the quais. But the biggest hit has been a 28-metre swimming pool where kids of all ages can cool off …even though it’s been unseasonably cool this summer … that is until now.
But the Paris Plage doesn’t come cheap: this year it cost a total of two million euros, even though the majority of the funds were under written by commercial sponsors. To spite the cost and disruption, Paris’s Mayor Bertrand Delanoë has been successful in attracting tourists and increased business to the City of Light.
It’s projected that 3 million Americans will visit Paris in 2007. Considering the weakness of the dollar coupled with some of the hassles of air travel, it’s a real accolade as to what the city has to offer. And, we’re not even talking the Louvre or the Musee D’Orsay.
The beginning of August is when the summer sales are ending; if there’s anything left, you may score a 70% discount. Granted, there’s not the same selection as when the sales began. But, that doesn’t seem to stop people from emerging from stores toting shopping bags filled with some out-and out steals.
It’s true that when people live in Paris, they tend to be Right or Left Bank people. Some never venture from one side of the Seine to the other. I should admit to be one of the guilty parties.
My foray started with meeting with some friends for a simple but very elegant lunch at the 15 Cent 15, a bar/lounge located in the beautifully designed and elegant Hotel Marignan a block off of the Champs-Élysées. The hotel is a knock out — and a wonderful place to have a quiet breakfast, lunch, cocktail or light dinner, that is if you can’t stay for a month or even a few nights. Upon entering the lobby, you immediately know it’s a gem of a boutique abode. It’s expensive but after a fast look-see, anyone should understand why. As a result of this lunch, I decided to explore that area of the city.
After setting out and managing to do a fair share of damage, I had a revelation. The toney Right Bank (especially stores situated in the Golden Triangle and Avenue Montaigne) has a far different selection of clothes in the exactly same stores as their branches on the Left Bank. There’s no question that Left Bank addicts rarely cross the Seine unless it’s for a spectacular meal or a State occasion.
Avenue Montaigne and its stores are essentially equivalent (and often identical) to the ones on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, California. Ergo – you shouldn’t have to look at price tags if you have heart problems, Home to the top couture houses and the some of the most chic shopping in the city, the Avenue M ontaigne area is chock-a-block with top-notch designers such as Calvin Klein, Celine, Chanel, Christian Dior, Prada and too many more designers to even mention.
After running from store to store, the image of “what’s wrong with this picture?” became realistically vivid. I immediately called Born to Shop Suzy Gershman
Suzy confirmed that stores on the opposite banks stock for different clienteles. “French women rarely shop on Avenue Montaigne. The clothes are too big and the colors are targeted for people who stay in the area’s hotels.” Max Mara located just off of Bv. St-Germain-des-Prés was touting the SM look while the store nearly next door to the five star super-deluxe Plaza Athénée offered a more conservative collection from which to choose. No matter which bank, none of the clothes come cheap even during the sales.
With the advent of the city’s bikes, for some people who aren’t tied to school vacations, Paris in August can be the best month to stick around. And this year, (so far) people haven’t had to worry about the heat. For that matter, summer has finally just appeared. Plus, you’ll now find air-conditioning if temperatures climb.
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