Every year, between May and August a wave of warmth caresses Paris, attracting Parisians out of their homes, making them smile for no reason and occupy every bit of grass in the capital. But it’s not that simple, the city rarely supplies a nice progressive summer and from March to September an obsessive weather prediction game takes place. If it’s sunny enough to have a picnic in a park in March then the season will be cold and rainy and if It’s cold in May then summer will extend into September. It seems like even the weather forecast has lost its precision and that some capricious gods make sure to contradict it just for laughs.
One thing that never changes is the vitamin D starved city dweller’s behaviour. As soon as the first rays of sun appear he forgets about his home during those long evening where shelter is not needed. He also forgets the discipline he acquired during the year and a drink after work by the canal on a Monday night turns into a light dinner on a breezy terrace then into an outdoor concert, a last drink at 3 a.m and a windy velib’*ride home. On the weekend he goes to the parc des Buttes Chaumont with his friends and when they finally find two unoccupied square meters, they take off as much clothes as they can and spend the day roasting in the sun with chilled rosé wine and snacks. On weekdays, during his lunch break, the city dweller has the same great idea as every one else; he buys a sandwich and wants to eat it outside. Timing gets very tricky, at 13:15 not a bench is free and if you don’t have an organized team of colleagues to reserve seats while you queue to buy everyone’s meal at the bakery, then you might spend your break walking several blocks away looking for a spot to sit.
This particular summer is as traitorous as they come; for every single nice summer day we have to suffer through four cold rainy ones. This has a huge impact on everything including fashion, and you know how important fashion is here. I have a friend who moved to Los Angeles a few years back and when she arrived there with her strappy summer heals and perfect black dresses she was chocked at the shorts and Uggs combination until she understood that it was every girl’s uniform for practical reasons and that when warm days turn into cool damp evenings, you want at least your ends to be tucked in. With this unpredictable weather, Parisians experiment to combine comfort, flexibility and allure. In the streets you can see women in sandals and coats, light dresses and socks; men in tank tops and boots, and determined people that stick to homogeneous styles in beachy outfits under the rain or full October gear under the scolding sun. The weather affects us so much that it ends up being the main topic we discuss; everyone takes out their smart phone and comments on the one week forecast that will probably change along the way, we make outdoor weekend plans but are careful to have other options if it starts to rain and we try to absorb the sun that we can’t see in the sky in light colourful meals.
Because of the financial turmoil the French have less money to go on holidays and more and more of them end up leaving for short periods of time and usually visit relatives in other parts of the country. Not being able to escape a troubled summer makes it so inevitable, so much like an end-of-the-world blockbuster scenario. That’s it, I’m booking a flight to Portugal.
Words by Nada Diane Fridi.
Photography by Vanni Bassetti