Lifestyle · Travel

Spring in Paris

As Henry Miller famously said, “When spring comes to Paris, the humblest mortal alive must feel that he dwells in paradise.”

How true.

Ah, April in Paris . . .

Let me guess: Just seeing the words “April” and “Paris” has you humming the 1932 show tune.

One April day not long after my daughter and I moved to Paris, an editor at the then International Herald Tribune said to me, “You know that song ‘April in Paris’?”

Obviously I did—doesn’t everyone? But since he was my boss, I simply said, “Yes.”

“Well,” he continued, “it was only a question of the rhythm of the lyrics; it has nothing to do with the weather in Paris. April isn’t necessarily a beautiful month.”


April can be fickle. So far we have had rain, a sprinkling of sleet, and, for the last several days, exquisitely gorgeous sunshine—all-you-need-is-a-cardigan sort of temperatures.

It’s that kind of day today as I look out of my office window at our huge forsythia bush in full bloom, and, just beyond, the pinky-mauve blossoms on the wild plum tree. Further down in the garden, the buds are ready to burst open on the masses of lilac trees, and the other day I saw my first robin.

When I was in Paris earlier this week (we live west of the city in the countryside between Versailles and Rambouillet), I saw the most exuberant signal that spring has finally arrived: the chestnut trees in full bloom.

I was conscious, once again, of that crystalline light that I associate with the city in printemps, particularly after the long, gray winter.

Spring and fall are my favorite seasons in Paris. There is something magic about the almost palpable energy and excitement on the streets.

Florist shops have brought large buckets of lush bouquets out onto the sidewalks, forcing passers-by to detour around the ebullient displays, or, as I did the other day, buy a bunch of those multi-petaled tulips that almost look like roses.

My local florist told me that my favorite flower, peonies, will be out next month. “I’ll call you the minute they arrive,” he promised.

Outdoor cafés are overflowing with Parisians, and—I suspect—tourists as well, thrilled to sit in the spring air and watch that marvelous on-the-street theater that makes Paris Paris.

Coats are shed, skirts and dresses are beginning to reappear, giving refreshing competition to the normally de rigueur trousers and jeans. For those wondering whether fashion’s latest aberration (my opinion, since, as they say about la mode, if you’ve been there once you don’t want to go back), flare pants, are taking off, I maintain that they are not. Or not yet.

For every pair of flares I saw at least 10 pairs of skinny, skinny jeans. I imagine Frenchwomen think that since they have the legs for the latter, why would they go big? I’ll revisit the streets to see if the trend will be embraced as summer approaches. Let me know if you would like me to get back to you.

Generally speaking, I’m not enamored of spring and summer clothes, even though I love the warm temperatures. I’m more of a “back-to-school-new-clothes” kind of girl, but watching women of all ages in Paris in the spring makes me re-think my prejudice. They look as if they have been released from the confines of winter’s necessary camouflage. They even move differently: not so quickly, more of a stroll, soaking in the sumptuous season.

The last few days of March were surprisingly warm, and three of my blogger friends, all of whom live in France—two Australians, one English—and I had lunch on a terrace in the Place des Vosges, where we were joined by two bold sparrows looking for breadcrumbs. Sparrows visiting outdoor tables always seem like the ultimate confirmation that spring is here.

Happily, we are only midway into the season. May is always an exceptionally beautiful time, and for the French an exceedingly popular month, because it consists of four ponts, or “bridges.” Ponts are long weekends built around an official holiday, which means that for many, either a Monday or a Friday is tacked onto the actual day, creating four mini vacations.

Everyone loves May. If the holiday falls on a Wednesday, for example, it’s less fun. This year three ponts are officially on Friday and the other on a Monday. That will probably work out to three Thursdays and a Friday (it’s unlikely that the Monday pont will include a Tuesday.)

May and the beginning of June are perfect times to visit Paris—but then again, as Audrey Hepburn said in Sabrina, “Paris is always a good idea.”

It is indeed.


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  • Jo Shafer April 16, 2018 at 12:58 pm

    What a delightful read! Thank you. I’ll never get to Paris in this lifetime, but I can dream, can’t I?