A new rhythm begins in Paris with la rentree, when Parisians return from their vacances, and shops re-open all spruced up after a month off. Yes, France remains a stalwart in the European economy despite the 25 or so days of vacation that Parisians take in a year, with a good chunk of it in August. The rush of la rentree means waiting in long lines (but be wary of people who coyly cut in front), like a hurricane is about to hit the middle of France along the Seine.
As the days grow shorter, and trees become bare with mounds of leaves sprinkling the ground, regardless of weather, there remains plenty to do and experience in Paris, from visiting various art exhibitions to popping the arrival of beaujolais in November.
Autumn is the most beautiful time to be in Paris, as the rhythm of life in Paris hums back to normalcy. There are many things to do, see and experience in Paris in the fall.
Our favorite activities include:
Visiting the marchés. September and October are great “fooding” months, as the seasonal change means shoppers can still enjoy summer fruits like melons and berries, and the new fall harvest brings lovely squash, pumpkin (for eating, not Halloween), and various mushrooms (girolles, cepes). The marchés are a great place to experience the bounty of the fall harvest, and this is also the new season for huitres (oysters). Some of our favorite marchés in Paris are:
• Rue Cler (7th Arrondissement). One of the more fashionable markets where Julia Child shopped when she lived in Paris. Open Tuesday-Saturday and Sunday morning. Read more about Rue Cler here.
• Marché des Enfants Rouges (3d Arrondissement). This covered market is one of the oldest in Paris, and is known for its great values. Open Tuesday to Saturday from 8:30am to 1pm and from 4pm to 7pm; Sunday from 8:30am to 1pm. Read more about Marché des Enfants Rouges here.
• Boulevard Raspail (6th Arrondissement). This is known for one of the best organic markets in the city, and is next to the chic Rue du Bac and Boulevard Saint Germain des Pres. Open Tuesday, Friday and Sunday morning (Sunday is organic only).
• Village d’Auteuil (16th Arrondissement). You won’t find tourists here. Just local Parisians buying from their favorite vendors. Open Wednesday and Saturday morning.
• Avenue President Wilson (16th Arrondissement). Close to Trocadero and Place d’Iena, this is reputed to be one of the best open marches in Paris. Open Wednesday and Saturday morning.
• Place de Passy (16th Arrondissement). This is a great place to sit for lunch as well as shop, and is one of the more charming marketplaces in Paris. It has one of the best boucherie in Paris (Roger). Open Tuesday to Saturday from 8:30am to 1pm and from 4pm to 7pm; Sunday from 8:30am to 1pm.
• Rue Gros (16th Arrondissement). A great place to find fresh huitres, and it also has one of the best organic vegetable vendors in Paris (Joël Thiébault). Open Tuesday and Friday morning.
Jardins, Marrionettes, and Carrousels. What better way to see and experience Paris than a stroll in one of the beautiful parks (jardins) or to take a carrousel ride near the Louvre or in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. Several parks also have marionette shows, which delight adults and children alike (knowledge of French is optional). Our favorite parks and carrousels are located at:
• Jardin des Tuileries. Read more about Jardin des Tuileries here.
• Champs de Mars. Read more about Champs de Mars here.
• Jardin du Luxembourg. Read more about Jardin du Luxembourg here.
• Trocadero. Trocadero is perfectly located across from the Eiffel Tower on the Right Bank of the Seine, with a carrousel at the bottom of Trocadero as well as the plaza on top. Stop by for a coffee at Cafe du Trocadero.
• Jardin du Ranelagh. Read more about Jardin du Ranelagh here.
• Carrousel du Louvre. Despite its name, there is actually no carrousel here, except for the famous arch built by Napoleon, in a square between the tuileries and the Pyramid du Louvre. There are high bushes which serve as a maze (plus, at night, for other types of rendez-vous), and a neat little park elevated slightly above near the Lion’s Gate that remains a peaceful hidden spot, even during the rush of tourist season.
Wi-Fi Parks and Cafés. There are over 400 parks and sites with free-wif, and many cafés as well. A complete listing of public parks by arrondissement may be found here. There are over 150 cafés with Wi-Fi. A partial list may be found here.
Beaujolais Festival. Mark your calendar for November 22th, as the 2012 bottles of Beaujolais will be corked open and the wine will flow everywhere. No need to go anywhere special, as any café or restaurant or wine bar will be serving this year’s new vintage, which is best drunk very young.
Chocolate Festival (Salon du Chocolate). From October 29 to November 2, this premier chocolate festival at Port de Versailles should not be missed by anyone who loves chocolate. All of the prestigious chocolatiers will be at this event, and a kids workshop and exhibition is held everyday from 11 am-7 pm. More information can be found here.
Halloween. Halloween remains a peculiar holiday, as mostly American ex-pats tend to celebrate it, but chocolate shops have all sorts of treats including our favorite, Servant, where special chocolate treats are wrapped beautifully in orange boxes and sucettes (lollipops) and other special candies are placed in candy bags that delight children of all ages.
Hidden Places. My two favorite hidden spots in the shadow of throngs of tourists are a small park across from Notre Dame, next to Shakespeare and Company Bookstore, and Place Dauphine, which is across from the Couer de Cassation (French Supreme Court) off the Pont de Neuf. Place Dauphine is a triangular square with some great restaurants, and a beautiful spot in the fall with the fall leaves covering the ground. We would go there for our children to enact knight battles, with their hand-carved wooden shields and swords.