August In Paris: Sights, Sounds, And Sniffles

The Sounds Of Summer In Paris

For the past week, I’ve had the flu. My son came home from camp with it, and three days later, I was sick, too.

If you’re going to be sick, Paris is a pretty good place for it.

These past several days, I’ve been homebound. However, with the apartment windows open all around to catch a cross-breeze between the street out front and the courtyard behind, I’ve still been able to enjoy Paris, and I’ve realized that the sounds of this city, like so many other things about it, fall into delightful and delightfully reliable patterns.

Every morning, about 9 a.m., a truck stops at the restaurant next door to our apartment building to collect empty wine bottles from the night before. It does this by hoisting the bin where the empties are stored up and over. The bottles make a great crashing sound as they are dumped into the back of the truck among all the other bottles already collected from other restaurants.

Throughout the day, neighbors on our street and coming and going through our courtyard call out to each other in passing. Their greetings echo up and through the apartment… bonjour!… ca va?… bonnes vacances!…

That last because August is vacation month in this city. People begin decamping the third and fourth weeks of July, heading south for the coast. Then, overnight, from July 31 to Aug. 1, Paris goes to sleep. Shops are closed for the duration, restaurants shut for three or four weeks, until le rentree in September.

For the month of August, central Paris is given over entirely to its tourists. Fortunately, our street is off the typical tourist path. Now and then, though, these past several days, I’ve heard Americans pass by beneath our windows, lost, trying to find their way to the Musee d’Orsay. It’s three blocks over. I’ve thought about making a sign to hold out for them as they pass by confused and consulting their map books.

Every afternoon, the two young daughters of our guardienne (apartment buildings in Paris don’t have doormen; they have lady guardiennes) play together in our courtyard. I hear them singing and laughing, calling and chasing, skipping and testing their jumping skills. Summer afternoons linger in this part of the world, and the two little girls occupy themselves on the cobblestones until their mother calls them inside their little apartment for dinner.

Within a few blocks of our apartment, in different directions, are museums, cafes, art galleries, antique shops, patisseries, boulangeries, wine shops, cheese shops, boutiques advertising their last-chance summer sales, and the River Seine. These past several days, I haven’t been able to get out to frequent any of these places, but I’ve been comforted by the thought that they’re all there, as they’ve long been and as they’ll long continue to be, standing by for my return.

I’ll be venturing out again, emerging from my brief hibernation, tomorrow, for the start of an important week. Joining us in Paris this week are family and friends from around the world for a special family event—our daughter’s wedding. The bunch of us will enjoy two days together in Paris… then we’ll travel ensemble to a chateau about an hour outside the city for the big event.

Lief and I have been planning for and looking forward to this occasion for the past 15 months. We’re going to take the week off to enjoy it.

That is, you won’t be hearing from me for the next 10 days or so. You will, though, be hearing every day, as usual, from my team back in Panama City. They’ve got some special things in store for you.

So, please, keep reading. I’ll be back at my post post-nuptials.

Bonnes vacances.

Kathleen Peddicord

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