France in August?

Old Mar 29th, 2014, 09:57 AM
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France in August?

This is a kind of "what would you do" question...My girlfriend and I have been planning a trip to France for several years, and only now do we have some time and money to go. But for logistical reasons, it's looking like August is the only time we can make it work (mid-July is a remote possibility) in the next two years. (My girlfriend is in a rigorous academic program.)

I hear that France in August is really crowded and hot and generally less pleasant than other times of the year in part because Europeans take vacation that month. This will be our first trip to Europe and this opportunity probably won't happen again anytime soon, so we want to have a great time. If you were in this situation, would you go for it in August or wait two years and try for a better time of year, like May? Or would you try really hard to make mid-July work? Is there really a huge difference between July and August?

Some relevant details: we want to spend about a week in Paris at the art museums, historical sites, and so on. We'd spend another week in one of the wine regions (details as yet unclear, but please do chime in if you know that one region is more crowded in August than another). We will probably *not* want to spend much or any time on the beaches. I live in Atlanta and deal with a lot of nasty traffic that wears me down, so huge French traffic jams do not appeal, and might be a dealbreaker.

prior is offline  
Old Mar 29th, 2014, 10:12 AM
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the August crowds IME are mainly down south - Provence and seaside - August is really an off-season for Paris hotels I understand as the business types who partronize the major hotels are not there but at the seaside.

Most Parisians and French do not spend their vacation in Paris but at the seaside or in a vacation home or caravan along the coast.

The crowding in Paris in August IME is no worse than other months and the city is in some ways more delightful as the obnoxious car traffic is way down (and smog as well) and many Parisians out of town - nothing essential to tourists is closed though many small mom and pop shops, cafes and bakeries may be for the 'Conges annuelle' (sp?) the annual month off.
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Old Mar 29th, 2014, 10:18 AM
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It is true a lot of people take vacations in August, but it depends where you are going. They don't go to Paris, Paris is slower than usual in AUgust. Southern France is the busy part, of course, for vacationers.

I prefer July to August but for reasons that probably don't matter to you. There are hardly any performing arts in AUgust, that is true almost anywhere in the US and Europe, actually. And one thing I like to do is see a ballet (in Paris, for example) or a really good concert. Pickings are very slim in August, the regular season is over for any of that. But if you don't care about that at all, it really doesn't matter. That's the main reason I don't like August so much. A few shops or restaurants close for the month of August, but but that isn't a huge problem for most people. If you have your heart seat on some special name restaurant, it could be, so you should check if it is open in August or not.

Those are the main differences in Paris, in August, it isn't any more crowded than July, if anything, it may be less crowded. And in Paris, you can often get a lot better hotel rates in August as it is the slow season. Hotel rates usually change about July 15th, if the hotel offers a summer discount. I usually get about 25-33 % off in the hotels I choose when I go in late July. This is likely not the custom in smaller cities or villages, it's just because Paris is such a big business city and there isn't any business in August (this is also the case in many other big cities). It is probably the case in some cities like Bordeaux, also, I imagine, as there is a lot of business activity there.

If you don't care about performing arts (and they are pretty slow end of July, also, to be honest), there isn't any reason why August can't work for you as well as July.

You don't think August is hotter than July, do you? Because if anything, July is hotter than AUgust, on average.
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Old Mar 29th, 2014, 10:21 AM
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Plus in Paris you can in August go to the beach! Sand is brought in to create a beach along the Seine!
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Old Mar 29th, 2014, 10:36 AM
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We've spent many mid-Julys in France without crowds - you just need to know what areas to avoid in France.

I would go to the Annecy area in the Alps - which is the Savoie winegrowing region. We actually visited some wineries there. We stayed in Talloires on Lake Annecy for 2 weeks. We were in the Pyrenees in July 2012 & watched the Tour de France pass our little village on the descent from the last climb of the day - on July 14. We were there until July 21 - but there are no winegrowing areas close by. Last year were in the Cote Roannaise region - which sees few tourists and is also a winegrowning area - but there are not many major sites to see in the region. We were there for 2 weeks.

Annecy is convenient because you can fly direct from Atlanta into Paris CDG, visit Paris, take one of the many 3 3/4 hr TGV trains to Annecy, visit, and then make a short drive to Geneva, return the car, and then fly home from the Geneva airport via Amsterdam to Atlanta. Of course, you could take the TGV back to Paris for a one-nighter before your direct flight from CGD. For mid-July, it would probably be better to do this in reverse - Geneva, Annecy, Paris - so that Annecy is earlier in July with perhaps fewer tourists.

Stu Dudley
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Old Mar 29th, 2014, 10:38 AM
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August is one of the best months to visit Paris. In the first half, there is still Paris Plages and in the second half, the city is beginning to return to life but is less crowded.
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Old Mar 29th, 2014, 10:40 AM
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I wouldn't stay away from France in August, unless you want to be on the Côte d'Azur, which is a heaving madhouse. Paris is a bit quieter in August, and hotel prices are at their lowest, so that's a plus. Even if you do want beaches, there is always the west coast, which is remarkably less crowded than the Mediterranean. Inland, depending on where you focus, can be crowded or not, with places like the Dordogne very crowded, but the nearby Lot pretty peaceful. I wouldn't stay away from France just because it's August!
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Old Mar 29th, 2014, 10:41 AM
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One place to avoid in August IME is the French Riviera - I have been there several times in August and it - Nice to Cannes and all around is a real zoo - roads are pretty much gridlocked day and night it seems if driving.

And other seaside resorts as well all along the coasts but otherwise it should not be a major worry - for wine areas Burgundy is not likely to be overwhelmed at all.
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Old Mar 29th, 2014, 12:12 PM
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Typically everyone in europe is on vacation in August (many large businesses close for the month). But the French don;t go to Paris - they go to the seashor or the mountains/countryside.

Paris will be full of americans (and WILL be hot - make sure your hotel has AC - many don't) and make sure the other parts of France you visit are NOT the cote d'azure (I would go for either the Loire or Alsace/Burgundy.

Don;t see how long the vacation will be - so hard to make specific recos.
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Old Mar 29th, 2014, 12:46 PM
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If you have to be there in August, take advantage of things only available during the high season such as Son et Lumière shows. They are held mostly at Loire Valley historic castles, but they are also held elsewhere. When you can travel in shoulder seasons, you will have less crowd and more pleasant weather, but you will also not be able to see the Son et Lumière shows.
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Old Mar 29th, 2014, 01:09 PM
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nytraveler, Paris is never full of Americans in August. June is the American month. July is the month of Germans and English. August is the month of Spaniards and Italians. I have lived here long enough to know this.
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Old Mar 30th, 2014, 08:52 AM
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If driving you can IME even find lots of free parking in August - well it was free some years ago during August maybe not now - but driving luggage vans to hotels in August I could always find street parking - rare at other times.
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Old Mar 30th, 2014, 09:24 AM
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All of Paris has free parking during the month of August. All of the parking enforcement personnel are on vacation.

I really like Paris in August but it can be hot so a hotel with AC can be important. Hotels have excellent rates, this is their off season, and plenty of restaurants remain open as well as the museums and popular landmarks. If the opportunity presents itself, definitely come this summer.
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Old Mar 30th, 2014, 09:31 AM
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After Paris I'd look at places like Auxerre and Chablis, Northern Burgundy might be ok, the Jura and as Stu says the Savoie might be ok as well.
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Old Mar 30th, 2014, 09:35 AM
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If you want to be in a wine growing region and want to avoid heat then the Annecy region, as suggested, is a good place to go as would be the Loire and Burgundy. I spent two weeks vacationing on the Lac d'Annecy in the last two weeks of August a couple of summers ago and the only major crowds will be in Annecy itself and Chamonix. And even these places are still enjoyable with the crowds. If you want you can look at my photo report about my vacation there and it will give you ideas on places to visit and you can see what the region looks like. You'll also see photos of the crowds in Annecy and Chamonix.
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Old Apr 5th, 2014, 08:36 AM
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If you could substitute cider production for wine, Brittany is fabulous in August.
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