Europe in August
At any other time of year this street market in the 8th Arrondissement in Paris sells a mouth-watering array of produce, but not in August. Like many small businesses in the French capital, these stallholders have now shut up shop for the summer vacation.
Esther Lenneman, a French radio journalist who grew up in Paris, says the city center may be full of tourists in August, filling the shops and the restaurants on the Champs Elysées, taking boat trips up the Seine or congregating around the Eiffel Tower, but the rest of Paris is uncharacteristically tranquil.
In the same way that U.S. pharmacists when closed will direct customers to an alternative pharmacy, Parisian bakeries in August display notices announcing that although they are closed. emergency supplies of bread are available at a neighboring establishment. In spite of such privations, however, Esther Lenneman is not deterred from visiting her native city at this time of year.
It's a similar story in Italy and to some extent in Spain. The natives flee the big cities - leaving the tourists room to breathe.
The natives, meanwhile, often head for the beaches in August. American visitors beware, says British travel writer Simon Calder.
Calder has another tip for American visitors to Europe in August. If you want to travel by train, make sure you go first class. Otherwise you'll find yourself crammed into a compartment overflowing with young backpackers who've bought the special Interrail Europe-wide ticket for European students.
Germany is the one European country that has got August organized. School vacations are staggered. They begin and end at different times in different parts of the country. As a result, says Thomasz Schreiber of North German Radio, August in Germany is just like any other month.
London, the number one European destination for American tourists, doesn't shut down either in August -- although this has less to do with government planning than with the profit motive. These American visitors, lining up outside Buckingham Palace to watch the changing of the guard, say the British capital is bustling and hustling at this time of year.
Now they'll even be able to be troop into Buckingham Palace at $16 a head. They won't, however, get to see the queen. Every year she opens her home to the public in August, and that's when she takes her holiday.
In London, I'm Stephen Beard for The Savvy Traveler.
|American Public Media Home | Search | How to Listen|