5 Things to do in Paris when it rains

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You may not speak French, but I bet you’ve heard the phrase après moi, le déluge or “after me comes the flood.” The phrase is attributed to to King Louis XV’s reign in reference to the impending French Revolution. Today, it’s kind of a shoulder shrug phrase: After me, I don’t care what happens. It’s all going to hell.

At any rate, I haven’t thought much about the phrase until two weeks ago when we visited Paris and found that the city had literally flooded. Days of torrential rain had caused the Seine to rise and rise until it overtook the docks. And then the sidewalks. And then the benches. The Louvre closed to move artwork to higher floors. The train system shut down and the city came to a standstill. C’est bizarre, non?

Go ahead and plan a trip to Paris. It’s still there and it’s fantastic. Since the constant rains challenged me to come up with a nearly completely indoor itinerary when we visited, I’m passing along my recommendations for what to do when the clouds roll into Paris…

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Hole up in a café and write postcards. I do this in almost every city (especially if I’m dining alone while my husband has to work), but Paris has an especially wonderful variety of cafés. After buying postcards in a museum gift shop or at one of those street kiosks, I enjoy a long lunch over writing postcards to friends. I take my time and describe what’s going on around me which helps cement the memories in my mind. People watch. Have a glass of wine. Linger. Be French. (This time I dined at The Cottage on the left bank.)

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Shop Au Printemps and Galeries Lafayette. Trying to window shop left puddles in my shoes, so I took refuge at Paris’ two biggest and oldest department stores: Au Printemps and Galeries Lafayette. Luckily, they are as elegant as the independent boutiques and are located next door to each other so you can put away your umbrella. I recommend shopping the & Other Stories collection at Printemps and the Claudie Pierlot collection at Lafayette.

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Visit museums. Going to a museum is no-brainer since Paris is chock full of them and you’re drenched. This time I visited the Musée L’Orangerie where Monet’s wall-to-wall canvases of water lilies are hung beneath large skylights. The pitter-pattering of the rain on the skylights paired with the watery, moody art made for a transcendent experience. Read more on some of my favorite museums that aren’t The Louvre. You could also take in a live auction at the Drouot Auction House.

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Ride the Metro. I’m not advocating you ride it all day, but use it to get around since taxis will be in high-demand. Travelers can be intimidated by public transportation in foreign cities, but I try it almost everywhere we go as a means to better orient myself in a new place. The Paris metro system is, by far, one of the most organized, easy-to-navigate systems. Electronic ticket machines are in English and many stations have English-speaking employees who can help you chart your trip. Or download this mobile app.

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Buy a one-of-kind umbrella. My mother actually collects interesting umbrellas–yes, that is a hobby–and Paris is home to many high-end umbrella boutiques. Bringing an incredible parapluie home as a souvenir might be the coolest way to remember a rainy weekend you spent in Paris. I recommend Alexandra Sojfer, Antoine, Pep’s and Heartault.

Here’s wishing you a dry week wherever you are (it’s raining here as I write!)…meanwhile, a few links:

Last image via here.

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