While the fall season in Paris doesn’t officially begin until la rentrée, the annual return of students in September, the leaves began changing colors in August this year thanks to an unseasonably cool summer. As shopkeepers open their doors after a lazy summer and the city begins bustling again, expect a profusion of art and cultural events to keep you amoureux with the City of Light.
Beginning in September, the 36th annual Festival D’Automne brings together cutting-edge artists, directors, musicians, and dancers for a long list of events around the city. The festival involves over a thousand international artists, each chosen for their influence on contemporary art or for their promising emergence on the scene. This year the program is decidedly Middle Eastern in flavor, and will feature artists like Rabih Mroué, Hassan Khan, and Abbas Kiarostami. From the Louvre to the Centre Pompidou, expect an abundance of contemporary art. (September 12 to December 22)
Chocolate and Beaujolais
One of the most anticipated festivals of the season is the Salon du Chocolat, held at the Porte de Versailles. The expo promises to send any chocolate lover into a state of euphoria as more than 130 chocolatiers from around the world indulge visitors with samples of their craft. The event covers everything about chocolate, from cooking techniques to the ethics behind cocoa harvesting. The event will host some of the biggest names in French fine dining, including head patissiers from the Hotel Ritz and Plaza Athénée, who will impart their skills to sugar-high audiences. (October 19-22)
The biggest party of the season is October 6, and is fittingly called the Nuit Blanche (sleepless night). Students and adults flood central Paris for one night of sheer bedlam. All of the museums, libraries, monuments and churches remain open until the wee hours, so if dancing on the bridges isn’t your style, perhaps a trip to the Louvre or Palais de Tokyo will keep you up all night. For those still standing by morning, search out the free breakfast provided by the district governments.
Expect yet another celebration on November 15, otherwise known as Beaujolais Nouveau throughout France. This date marks the official tasting of the newly harvested Beaujolais wine. It may be the one night of the season when you are guaranteed to see elegant Parisians getting loose, and you are invited to join the party at virtually any café in the city. Try some of the bars on Rue Monmartre (Metro: Sentier) for a local experience; le Coeur Fou (55, rue Montmartre) is a favorite among the fashion/bohemian crowd. Expect to pay anywhere from 4-7 euros for a glass of Beaujolais, depending on the café. And remember that moderation is advised — this fruity wine is known for inducing next-day agony!
Fall Fashion Week
Generally regarded as the most glamorous party week of the year, Fall Fashion Week is the height of Parisian chic. This fall, many designers will show their collections at the Carrousel du Louvre, where four newly completed showrooms open this season. With the city inundated by models, editors, and the jet-set, you are guaranteed celebrity sightings and paparazzi jams. For those who crave part of the action, stake out the show venues via the calendar at modeaparis.com. Or for an easy front row seat on all of the action, just sit on the terrace at Café Beaubourg and keep your eyes open. By night, expect hotspots like Neo and Le Sens to be hyper-exclusive — unless, of course, you have reservations, stellar attire, or friends in high places.
Big names in entertainment will take the stage in Paris this season, and tickets are sure to fly out the door for singers like Elton John, Celine Dion, and Rihanna. For a more French experience, try to catch Vanessa Paradis’ hotly anticipated comeback (keep an eye out for husband, Johnny Depp), or the new electrodance sensation, Justice. Tickets at fnac.fr.
The New Hot Spots
A crop of new clubs that have popped up just off the Champs-Elysées, are poised to take the heat away from older establishments like Le Queen and VIP. Among the finest are Club Neo and Le Sens, located side by side on the rue Ponthieu (Metro: Franklin D. Roosevelt). Neo boasts a sleek yet cozy underground dance floor that is a favorite among the fashion crowd and wealthy young Parisians. Le Sens is more impressive as far as its multi-level design and music, though the crowd is slightly more mature. It still plays host to a bevy of models, often accompanied by men of a certain age.
Le Showcase (metro: Champs-Elysées Clemenceau) is the largest club to open this year in Paris, and it is not to be missed. Located underneath the Pont Alexandre III bridge, it is a massive space (photo, right) that offers an accessible bar, dance floor, and view of the Seine. On weekends the line outside will run up the steps to the Place de la Concorde, as revelers party until sunrise after all the other clubs have closed. It is the best aprés-party in the city, and a great venue to spot new bands.
With so many events to occupy your days and nights, Paris is sure to seduce travelers of all varieties this season. But then, when is Paris not seductive?
Photo credits: (1) Courtesy Festival D’Automne ; (2) Istockphoto/CreativeI; (3) Courtesy of Le Showcase.