Plus jamais en été

We’re back in sleepy, quiet Paris after a whirlwind stateside summer.  It’s been about a thousand years since I’d been in Paris in August and I’d forgotten just how empty it can get.  The place has rolled down the shutters and put out the gone fishing signs.  The single digit arrondisements (along the Seine) are still full of flocks of tourists, but out here in the neighborhoods, it’s crickets.  You barely have to look both ways to cross the street.  2 out of 3 shops are closed.  All 3 of our fromageries to boot!  It’s a sad howdy’a do to come back home and have to buy grocery store cheese, but we’ll manage.

We arrived 2 weeks ago and in a jet lag haze packed fresh bags and headed to one of our
favorite spots, Belle Île en mer to visit our friend Michel.  Michel does open-air theater in the summer, and we’d long wanted to see his performances.  He’d told us many times how different Belle Île is at the height of tourist season, but wow, was it ever.  Now I know where all of Paris goes in August.  There are 5000 year round residents on the island, in summer the population goes to 30,000.  It was nonetheless a great time, and we’re glad we got to see 3 of his shows.  Michel does one performance about the ocean in the ocean, with his audience seaside on the cliffs.  It’s a natural amphitheater, so you can hear him without any problem.  He arrives on the “stage” by swimming in from around the jetty, and I have to say it was pretty spectacular, even if the photos just look like some guy swimming.

Michel on stage

Mark (sporting his oh so Brittany shirt that Michel gave him for his birthday) with some of the audience on the cliff.  I was sensibly on more level ground with the other scaredy cats.
I also learned some great French slang like beauf, which is short for beau-frère, brother-in-law.  I think you can guess that means lout.  Michel was grousing how the island was full of beauf.  The main town on the island was almost impassible, but I needed something to read so I headed to the bookstore/newsstand.  It might as have well have been the Aragon ballroom, it was wall to wall people.  I had to thread my way sideways and pray a few hundred pardons and excusez-mois to get to the books.  I tried to tell Michel that if French louts are thronging the bookstore then they’re not really louts, at least by my definition, but he was having none of it.  Then I learned the wonderful phrase for curmudgeon, an “ours mal léché”, literally a badly-licked bear.   So we three ours mal léché enjoyed ourselves despite the rash of beaufs.

Michel’s house is on the right.  The tiny guest house used to be the stable.  At least, we used to think it was tiny.  Now we find it absolutely palatial!  Oh how things change…



Michel’s garden is full of hidey sitting spots, but this one is Mark’s fave.


*Never again in summer!  It was our Belle Île mantra.