It’s August, and in the quiet of the Parisian suburbs that means there is not a soul on the streets. What is normally just low-key is now silent, save a few lone inhabitants, aimlessly wandering the streets like survivors of a nuclear blast. There is nothing post-apocalyptic about the scenery though, which is a pleasant mix of cute little houses and boxy modern apartment buildings. The best part is the greenery, which is lush. We are just a few steps from a forest, and the neighborhood is dotted with some nice old trees, like the huge weeping willow on the corner, which is literally the size of a house.
Most of the stores on the main drag, if you can call it that, are shuttered, with notes taped to the metal shutters announcing their summer closures. The mini-super market is open, as is one bakery, to feed those few who are not on a beach somewhere, slathering the sunscreen and trying not to get stepped on by the hordes of fellow vacationers.
I prefer to stay on my deck chair in the back yard this summer. When the sun is out, I can close my eyes and pretend that I am at a luxury resort on the Riviera. After all, it’s the same sun beating down on my face, the same warm breeze caressing my limbs, the same quiet massaging my temples. OK, I’ll admit that instead of the cry of seagulls I hear the twitter of sparrows and instead of the distant roar of crashing waves, I hear the distant thunder of the RER C. But by and large, what I lose in pampering I gain in the relaxing effects of sleeping in my own bed and not needing to get to the airport. And it’s not like I could ever afford a luxury resort to begin with.
Then I decide to go to the movies. I waltz into my private screening room that the owner of MK2 Parnasse has so kindly opened for my personal benefit. Or else it certainly seems that way—I am the only person at the 1:30 matinee and get to enjoy Florence Foster Jenkins without any one near me crinkling wrappers or munching on popcorn.
But the best part of my home-grown luxury vacation is the silence. The muted calm that you pay for at a ritzy resort is a standard feature of any residential neighborhood in Paris after July 14. In fact, Paris in August is what some evil-minded tourists dream of: Paris without the Parisians. Be advised, however, while the Parisians might be gone, their places have been filled by thousands of out-of-town guests, who clog the arteries of every major attraction. It may be a nice playground, but one you will have to share with the other kids, who might not want to play they way you want them to. To them, it might be fun to scream or run around or push people.