Queuing up at a book shop last week waiting for the latest Harry Potter book, kind of made me feel a bit like I had been transported back in time to 15 years ago, when I was doing exactly the same thing. Only this time, I’m queuing up with my two children. Throughout the years and the 8 different movies that have been released, millions of toys and video games, they too have picked up the Pottermania. It seems like it was just a rapid explosion that would fade away after some time, but after last week, that idea may be wrong. If you don’t know what I’m talking about; the is a new Harry Potter book. It’s not exactly a novel like the other ones and it’s not written by the same writer, it’s actually a play and is currently on stage in London and New York. The book was reawaken my kids love of all things magic.
So how does that fit into Paris? Good question. Well, if you are looking for child friendly museums and things to do, this recent resurgence of Pottermania might warrant a visit to the incredible Magic Museum. It’s only a 5 minute walk from the Louvre and honestly, your children will probably find it more interesting. Mine did. It’s very inexpensive but I can’t directly say how much exactly it cost because I don’t remember. It think it was about 4 pounds. You can spend 1 to 2 hours in there and while it is super interesting, it has the delicate balance of being engaging but also educational. You learn quite a lot about history, society and physics by looking at the different magic tricks, how they work, how they are performed, who started it, etc etc. Less about wizards and witches and bit more about real people, with over 100 items on display, you won’t be bored.
What’s also great about it, is that its’ not a very busy museum. Paris has more museums that any other city in Europe ( that includes cities which are much larger in size, like Moscow or London) and yet people only really tend to go to the same ones over and over again. Once you’ve seen 1 museum you’ve seen them all, right. No! Wrong! If only just to escape the crazy crowds of tourists in August, try to do some research and go to some museums you’ve never heard of. I was pleasantly surprised with this one. You can find out more about this museum and many other museums that you may never have heard of by visiting websites such as The Parisian or Time Out. They can even tell you if there are some interesting temporary exhibitions happening.
During the month of August, something very strange happens around Paris. It’s not unique to the city but it is strange nonetheless. It happens every year like clockwork. It starts and finishes at almost the same time every year. It’s been happening for quite a while yet despite this fact, each year, people pretend like it is the first time this has ever happened. Do you have any idea what I’m talking about? No!
Ok, so if you are visiting the city during the month of August, you might notice something a bit unusual . It’s not the weather and its not an event. It’s about the local people. It seems like there are virtually no local people in Paris at all. The city gets completely taken over by people like you and people like me…. Tourists. That horrible, horrible word that no tourist wants to hear and certainly doesn’t want to admit they are. But I personally don’t mind the term. If it’s used in a nice way of course.
The mass exodus of people, is not something unique to Paris. Most major cities in Europe experience the same thing especially large capitals like Madrid and Rome. All the locals of these cities flee and escape to the beach. But it seems that with each passing year, the concept and understanding of why this happens seems to change. Parisians don’t leave Paris because there are too many tourists in August. It’s quite the other way around. Parisians have been doing this long before the massive tourism boom of the 1990s and 21st Century. Any Parisian will tell you this. There is a very famous iconic Parisian movie called Last Weekend, directed by Jean Luck Gordard (if you haven’t seen it, you should, it’s amazing and still to this day, it’s very chic). In this movie, there is a famous scene of a traffic jam which seems to go on and on and on. The scene is a single shot and is over 7 minutes long and highlights the type of jams experienced by Parisians during the 1960s, as everyone tried to go to the south for their summer holidays.
The effect of this, has left the city ripe for the picking, so to speak. Before, the month of August meant that the city was abandoned and dead and now, it is one of the most profitable months for the city. Every hotel is full, every major restaurant that has good reviews is full and the museums are full. This bring a lot of economic life to the city. Ok, I know there are down sides. It gets a bit crowded, yes it’s true. It’s a bit more expensive, yes it’s true. It lacks a certain authentic element due to the absences of locals, yes it’s also true. But it not all bad and it seems like every time August comes around, everyone seems to saying the same thing. All the tourists come so the Parisians leave. No no no, my friend. It was quite the opposite.
While this blog is normally reserved for activites and events in Paris, I thought I would change the tone a little. It’s still relevant to tourist and tourism, but a bit more serious. If you are traveling to Paris (or indeed anywhere in France), you should know that there is a currently a strike.
“Yes, yes, yes but there are always strikes in France” – I can hear you shouting at your computer screen. This is definitely a stereotype that we French have to deal with and we are not why we have this stereotype. I lived in many different European countries and I honestly don’t think our government institutions strike any more or less than some of our neighbors.. But its just one of the labels we have to live with.
The strike, I’m talking about is the air traffic controller strike. There is no need to panic, it’s not a bad strike, or even a new one. It’s been going on for a while. I’ve noticed that international media don’t really write a lot about it, because it is really a domestic issue. It’s difficult to write about it without getting into the politics of the dispute. Any attempt to explain exactly what is happening results in somehow taking a side or at least, favoring one side. This blog is definitely not a place for politics (thankfully) but it is related to tourism.
My advice is too check with your airline and see what the consequences are. I will be nothing serious and they strikes are only happening in short bursts. It’s not like, they just walked out of their jobs. It’s more of a “go-slow.” But they can be unpredictable. They have strikes 14 times now in since April and it is difficult to see when exactly it will end.
Stay up to date with news coverage and advice from your airline. If you are traveled from outside of Europe make sure, you plan for the possibility that you might be delayed just a little bit or you might be held a bit longer in your home airport or stopover destination on your way to Paris or another French city. Once you know and you make provision and you make a plan, it really isn’t;t that big a deal but if it takes you by surprise, it can be annoying. Also, people like to exaggerate the problem – “there no planes… at all flying into Paris, if you go, you could be stuck there”. I heard someone say this in London recently. This isn’t true. Of course planes are landing, it’s one of the busiest cities in the world, in terms of air traffic. If that was true you’d know all about it, trust me.