I always think the French word canicule,meaning heat wave, sounds suspiciously like a Scot saying that they ‘canny cool doon’, that is, ‘cannot cool down’. Anyway, we’re sadly having no problems with overheating in haggis land this summer, but it looks like the French capital is becoming a little bit… sticky. As a scot with experience coping in temperatures often above her comfort zone, I know the best places to go. Fear not frazzled francophiles
1. Bois de Vincennes. Lac Daumesnil.
Just to the east of the city, easily accessible by the metro and tram lines, is the beautiful Vincennes, and its great wooded park. There are a few spots here to chill out, but let’s start with the boating lake. You can either hire one of the strangely named little rowing boats and take a few turns around the lake, or pay the nice chap at the hut and he’ll row you over gondola-style for 1 euro (if you want to save, go the long way round and take the bridge). Once over, bag a shady spot under one of the great trees, and have a picnic (preferably with the fresh fruit you picked up on your way past the Thursday/ Sunday market next to metro Porte-Dorée). Just don’t share with the island’s most famous inhabitants, les peacocks. Furthermore, if you run out of supplies, or are feeling in need of a little more luxury, I recommend checking out the shady, plush restaurant/ bar on the adjoining island!
2. Bois de Vincennes, Parc Floral.
Hayfever sufferers beware – the clue’s in the name. If you’re heavily enough sedated with antihistamines though, head this way. Another part of the lovely Bois de Vincennes, the closest metro is the line 1 Chateau de Vincennes. Get off the metro and head up the side of the castle, and you should reach the gates to the Parc Floral, sometimes allowing free entry and other times charging a small fee.
Again, be ready for peacocks, but also a beautiful array of flowers, and most importantly…the water feature. I like to stand under it for a while then lie down beside the lake. It doesn’t get more peaceful than this. And don’t hurry back to the metro straight after, but pass by La Table de Troys. Either order the lemon sorbet to go, or sit down with a glass of the Cotes de Gascogne (the cheaper one on the menu). I don’t know much about wine, but every single person I’ve taken there has agreed with me – it is the best, most refreshing white wine on the planet.
3. Café and Hammam at La Grande Mosquée de Paris.
The best way to escape the heat? Embrace it! Visit a hammam and sweat it all out, then dive into the cold baths for as long as you can handle. Take a little massage, and once you can stand to put your clothes back on, move into the tranquil shady courtyard and sip the most refreshing, authentic green tea to ever pass your lips. Perhaps indulge in a little perfumed baklava while you’re at it. The Hammam at Paris’ biggest mosque is authentic to the point that it may put some people off. This is not a spa experience. If you want luxury, I suggest La Sultane de Saba in Vincennes. Both experiences are wonderful but entirely different. The good thing about the café at the mosque is that you don’t feel pressured to leave. The waiters keep on circling, endlessly handing out the delicate glasses of tea, and the little birds hop from table to tree with the leftover flakes of pastry. You won’t want to leave.
4. Quai d’Orsay, by Pont Alexandre III.
Pop up bar anyone? Be warned, at the hour of the after-work, the queues stretch back to the point that you’re almost in-seine (sorry). And everything is overpriced, and alcohol is served in plastic glasses. BUT, many of the bars have deckchairs in the shade. There is the quieter quai further down by the famous floating swimming pool, named after Josephine Baker, but you want this spot for the view, trust me. Battle it out for a deckchair, or bring your own picnic, and use one of the benches provided, and dangle your legs over the river. As the sun sets behind the golden bridge of Alexandre III, and sparkles off the glass roof of the Grand Palais, its tricolore waving in the river breeze, you’ll wonder if you can ever call any other place home again.
5. Le Bassin de La Villette
To the North of the city, this body of water seems to catch a little more breeze than say Canal Saint Martin, and the air seems a little clearer. And while you wouldn’t want to dip a toe in some of Paris’ other waters, here they have water-sports! And water fountains, which you can run through – la vie est belle ici.
Grab a beach chair, sit in one of the cafés that line the banks, or board one of the boats (the public ones!). There’s a lot of good people – watching opportunities, but without feeling claustrophobic, this place is just the right side of busy. And as the sun sets? Head to Parc de la Villette itself, either for a concert, or to attend the outdoor cinema shown on a giant inflatable screen (yes, I have seen it puncture before)
Eurgh even as I finish writing this, I wonder if I should have included the beautiful Place des Vosges instead, or the gardens in Musée de Montmartre, or the greenhouse of the Musée de la Vie Romantique… the list goes on. Paris – not a place for indecisive people, but with plenty of options for those who get a little frazzled.