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Crazy to go to Provence/Paris this August?

I'm hoping you can help me with a dilemma of sorts.

My partner, 12 year old daughter and I have some time to travel this summer the first two weeks of August. We have been very interested in possibility of doing a home exchange for the bulk of the trip in the Provence area. We thought we might fly into Nice, spend a few days on the Riviera, then mostly explore Provence, ending up with 3-4 days in Paris and flying home from there.

I haven't been to France for decades and have never been to the south, but it's definitely been on our wish list. Besides all the lovely things I've gleaned about the south of France in summer, I've also heard that it can be hot, along with crowded and expensive. Also, that Paris in August is also overrun with tourists, with a lot of the Parisians getting out of town.

And then only today I was reminded that this summer will be the Olympics in Paris! Which I'm assuming will make things even more expensive and crowded. We are not wealthy ( I am a teacher, partly why we would do a home exchange) so would need some kind of affordable options. With our current timetable, we'd likely end up in Paris just about a day after the Olympics end.

At the same time, somehow it's taken decades for things to line up for us to go to Europe in this way, my daughter is at an age where she still likes being with her dads (though increasingly wants to be with her peers), and our health is all good. While it might be easy to say we could go to Provence/Paris some other year, as a teacher and parent I am beholden to traveling during regular school breaks.

So I guess my real question is: are we crazy for considering going to south of France/Paris in summer? And this summer in particular?

Are there ways we can still navigate the chaos of those two places this summer in a way that is affordable and enjoyable? One possibility is that we still go to Provence/Riviera but perhaps visit Paris on a future trip (by taking the train in from the Netherlands, or England, for example).

It's not that I don't think there aren't other places in Europe/France worth visiting. It's just that this is probably our top preference, except for the concerns mentioned above.

I'm especially interested in hearing the views of folks who have visited those areas in the first half of August, along with anyone who has a better sense than I currently do of how the Olympics might still impact visiting Paris immediately after they are over.

Many thanks!

Posted by
1409 posts

It will be crazy expensive just for accommodations in Paris— even for dates beyond the closing ceremonies
on August 11. Take a look at Booking.com or Trivago.com and see if there’s something within your budget.
Paris this summer is going to be consumed by the Olympics with more than 15 million spectators and officials expected during the two-week event. That number is half the 30 million tourists Paris usually sees during an entire year. So, Already, the Mayor of Paris is saying that the Metro does not have enough trains in some areas to meet the demand the Olympics will bring. Even so, I think it’s great for those who are going because they want to see an Olympic event in the city that last hosted the games exactly a century ago in 1924. But attractions such as the Louvre, the Musee D’Orsay and other sites will be closed during the Olympics. I can’t help but think that if the city is largely empty of Parisians, as it usually is during August, and the Olympics is given top priority ( as it will be) Paris simply won’t be Paris.

It will be the world visiting Paris.

Posted by
10179 posts

So I guess my real question is: are we crazy for considering going to south of France/Paris in summer? And this summer in particular?

Yes. If you could back your plans up to June when school gets out, you'd be in better shape for both Paris and Provence/Riviera. There is no way that I would get near Paris any July or August much less 2024. Affordable and enjoyable: personal assessment

That said, if you want to go to the south, you can fly to Barcelona and take a train to the southwest of France: Perpignan, Narbonne, Montpellier, Nîmes, on either the Spanish train system (RENF) or the French (SNCF). If on the RENF, it also stops in Marseille. You can rent a car in any of these cities, which you would need for Provence. Rental cars are in very short supply in August because they are scooped up by all the non-car owning French for their vacations (personal experience).

Hot: yes, but we spend a lot of time outdoors in shaded areas. We sleep with the windows open, noise, bugs no matter. I would be very careful with any type of exchange in summer, that it has a pool or there is water nearby, and that it's not in a town where restaurants and cafes under your windows keep you up until 2-3 in the morning. Two solutions where you would be staying among French families would be the campgrounds where they rent family bungalows. They all have pools, recreation areas, organized dances, cafes, restaurants. You could have fun-loving noisy neighbors. But you have to bring everything from sheets and towels to Saran wrap. Here is a vacation village in Provence, where we have run into a scattering of English-speakers, mainly bicycle riders going up Mt. Ventoux: https://www.artsetvie.com/residences/malaucene.htm

The Riviera is a few hours away. If you go there, you can visit small towns along the coast if you stay in Nice. The north of Europe does come down south for sun and water but, if you get rid of your car and take the train along the coast, you won't run into the famous bumper-to-bumper traffic.
BTW, some south of France residents go north to get out of the heat. LOL.
As for Paris, unless you can get there in June, I'd save it so you can experience it the way it deserves to be experienced. Nothing wrong with Barcelona, Nice, and more.

Posted by
381 posts

I would go to both Provence and Paris in August if that was a good time for me. But not Paris in August this year with the Olympics. As someone above said it just won't be Paris at this time this year. For Provence if you are doing home exchange do look into whether AC, pool, etc. Pool either at the home or maybe a public pool nearby. The town we stayed in August 2022 had a very nice municipal outdoor pool. Plan your sightseeing for early in the day, take a break for the afternoon, go back out in the evening. I think you could have a very great and very French trip without going to Paris at all.

Posted by
9554 posts

Remember that the Paralympic games start after the Olympics are finished. Of course they won't be on the same scale, but nothing will be back to "normal" until those are over in early September -- and September is always the busiest month in Paris already due to fashion shows and conventions and the like. So August 11 is not a magic date.

Posted by
1159 posts

We LOVE Paris, and even we wouldn't touch Paris during that time. Check out the Alsace region, or the south of France. August is the time everyone vacations, so be prepared for crowds and more expensive hotels. Most importantly of all, book a place with AC!! Be sure to check that your accommodation has it!

Posted by
27070 posts

Brittany might work, though I don't know whether there are Olympic/Paralympic activities in that area. Britanny is lovely and generally not subject to severe heat. You might get unlucky and encounter a short heatwave, but you wouldn't have unrelenting heat for two weeks, which would be entirely possible in the south. On the other hand, in Brittany you cannot count on having beach weather on any specific day, and Brittany in August (at least the coastal spots) is quite popular with the French themselves.

Posted by
7 posts

Thanks, all, this is incredibly helpful. Sounds like we should take a pass on Paris for this year. We're still considering a trip that would focus exclusively on the south of France. There are certainly worse things to consider!

Posted by
27070 posts

You can take a look at many cities' actual, historical, day-by-day temperatures going back at least ten years on the website timeanddate.com. Here's Nice for August 2023.

Nice weather -- August 2023

I imagine inland locations tend to be hotter, so I'm giving you Arles as well:

Arles weather -- August 2023

It's important to look at more than one year, because there's a lot of variation in weather. Use the pull-down box at the right, just above the graph, to change the month and year displayed. Use the Search box at the upper right to change the location.

Posted by
7 posts

Update: Given all that you've shared, we're going to take a pass on going to Paris....but this opens up an exciting possibility. . .what if instead of going to Paris for the final days of our trip, we go to the lake district in Italy instead? It's a place we've wanted to see for a long time.

In that case, we'd fly into Nice, maybe spend a few days on the Cote d'Azur, spend the bulk of our trip in Provence with a home exchange, and then go to either Lake Como (basing in Varenna) or Maggiore (basing in Stresa) for 3-4 days before flying home from Milan.

--Is this plan viable? If so, does it make sense to fly home to California from Milan, or is there a better airport to fly back from?

--If our trip were from Aug 1 - Aug 16th, how many days would you suggest in Nice area vs. Provence vs. one of the lakes? Does about 3-4 days seem to be a good length for visiting the lake?

--What would be the best way to get from Provence (perhaps the Arles area) to Stresa or Varenna--plane, train (route)?

--We need to get back to California by/on the 16th at the latest. Given that the Assumption of Mary holiday is on Aug. 15th, does this impact our ability/timing to get home?

Many thanks in advance! As I say, it's exciting to think we might be able to experience both the south of France and the lake district.

Posted by
985 posts

The Olympics will be in Paris from July 26th to August 11th.

If I left Paris on July 20th or earlier in July, would that be too close to the Olympics?

Or would it be "acceptable" to go to Paris in the last week of August?

Posted by
10179 posts

To give an idea of the time period being dedicated to the Olympics in Paris this summer, the government has told the French film industry that they won’t be able to shoot in the city from June 15 to September 15.

Posted by
985 posts

I am working on finding a place to travel to later this year. The paralympics will be in Paris from August 28 to September 8th. The benefit of taking a trip (somewhere, anywhere) that includes Labor day is because traveling on Labor day means asking for one day less off of work because my work is closed on Labor day, the first Monday in September. Would this year be an acceptable year to travel to France? If so, should I figure out how to start somewhere in France that is not Paris and then end in Paris? Or should I just put off France and find another country or state to go to?

Posted by
54 posts

The home exchange idea is really interesting. Have you already found someone interested in exchanging with you? Is that why you must travel in August? I found loads of airbnbs in Provence and the Côte d’Azur for June that are quite affordable and are still available. This might be more cost effective than a home exchange because you may not need to rent a car. You definitely don’t need one in the Côte d’Azur.

The British children are off the last week of May, so that’s a busy time. That’s also the time when people flock to the Côte d’Azur for the Cannes Film Festival and the Monte Carlo Grand Prix, I believe there’s an Ironman in Nice and two stages of the Tour de France sometime in July, In Provence crowds pick up the last week of June and early July for the lavender season. I can’t imagine traveling to Europe in August when all of Europe is on vacation, prices are ridiculous, and the heat is unbearable. Search for “Nice France crowds August” etc to get a sense of the crowds.

Also, flights are slightly cheaper in June. We found it was cheaper for us to fly into Nice and out of Marseilles than reverse. In fact, this was cheaper for us than the roundtrip flights from either airport. So you can play around with ideas like that.

I found affordable flights to Milan in June if you decide to make northern Italy your focus.

Another affordable option in August might be a house exchange in the Cotswolds, Ireland, or Scotland because flights are cheaper and the weather is slightly better. Edinburgh is so amazing and it has loads of incredible and affordable day tours and great activities for kids, like the Edinburgh castle, Holyrood house, hands-on museums, city walks, the Edinburgh dungeon, Inverness and the Lochness monster, etc. Your daughter will love the Mary Queen of Scott’s history and seeing her rooms in Holyrood, especially the room where she witnessed the grizzly murder of her boyfriend set up by her jealous husband. It’s said you can still see the blood on the walls.

Posted by
11139 posts

Your idea of including the Italian Lakes in your plans is a great idea. We have been to Bellagio on Lake Como four times, once for two weeks. We have also stayed in Stresa and Ranco on Lake Maggiore, Saló and Malcesine on Lake Garda. All wonderful! You can’t go wrong!
We canceled a trip to Brittany during COVID and still aren’t ready for a trip to France.

Posted by
7 posts

Re the France/Paris option for August:

Short answer: You can't go wrong, whether you go to Paris or not, because you're taking your daughter on a really fun trip!

Longer: I have lots of thoughts, especially because we are going to the Olympics (we've done two winter Olympics, and had tix cancelled to Tokyo 2020 b/c of pandemic, so we're thrilled for Paris 2024). Our experience being in London slightly before their summer Olympics, and friends who were there during the Olympics, and also being at two Winter ones, is that the fear and promises of crowding and chaos are overblown. There are a lot of people around for the actual events, but these are big cities with lots of infrastructure, and since a lot of locals leave, and few of the "regular" tour groups and tourists come, the other sights in the cities are actually quite manageable. Our friends who were at the London Summer Olympics said that every tourist activity they did during their non-game days was empty and lovely, and Tube lines that didn't go near game venues were fine. We anticipate that the Louvre and Orsay etc will be less crowded than in a regular August. The city will be very spruced up, very secure, and a huge party. There are lots of no-ticket-required Olympic things to see (bike races on city streets, marathons, etc) that you can watch for free by being in the right place at the right time. Just takes a little research into the schedule.

We did pay a lot for a three bedroom apartment during the middle of the games, more than double the usual price, but then we're leaving for the Loire while the games end, and airbnb prices in the Loire look VERY reasonable at that time. Probably because the people who do trips including Paris and other parts of France are not coming. And then we have one hotel night, Aug 10, that we have to be back in the city. I can find lots of hotel rooms on August 10 for $270 - 300 a night around Montparnasse, cheaper farther out, because a lot of spectators have left by that point.

So yes, during the games, housing is expensive, but the city will be spruced up and everyone else will stay very far away (as you can see from the other responses). Before and after the games, the city will be a great place to be.

That's a very long way of saying that if you really want a couple nights in Paris right after the Olympics, I think you should check prices. You might be pleasantly surprised at the hotels and airbnbs that are available starting Aug 11 or 12, because game visitors have cleared out and nobody else has come. And the city will be yours!

But if you don't want to do Paris, even after the games end, I recommend Barcelona and then the arc across the South of France that stretches out to Carcassonne, Narbonne, etc. Friends stayed at the Best Western Plus Le Donjon in Carcassonne and recommend it. And there are so many interesting little towns in the mountains between Barcelona and France. With a car, you can balance the sightseeing with fun outdoor stuff for your child, boat on a river, maybe a cave tour, etc. In the Pyrenees there is some town, I forget the name, where you take a cable car up to the little town. Super enchanting for kids. (** although Barcelona is really popular and if all the people not going to Paris go there instead ... !!!)

The BIGGEST thing I would encourage is looking for air conditioning in bedrooms. I had a historic hotel without A/C in Vienna and a similarly hot airbnb in Paris in 2019 during a massive heat wave and had to sleep in wet pajamas just to get through the night. AC's not that common in French airbnbs and really, it's just too hot in their current climate to sleep well without it. Especially because window screens just don't seem to be as common in Europe as in the US, so a fan and open window = mosquito bites.

Good luck! It will be a great trip.

Posted by
7 posts

Here's another comment about crowds: I went to a sold out MLB game last summer (Mariners vs Blue Jays) that finished at the same time a Taylor Swift concert was lining up to open its doors in the football stadium next door. All those fans in that small area did not destroy the city, and were largely a non-thing once you got ten blocks away. Think how many places handled Swifties for multiple nights in a row. Sure, Swifties don't party like German or Brazilian fans, but still.

Paris is big. If you want to go at the end or before the games, you'll probably have to stay closer to the ring road than you want (look for airbnbs by Canal St Martin/Belleville or south of Montparnasse?) and get very familiar with the metro, but it's doable.

Also, I know no one wants to not have things booked when travelling with a kid - I totally didn't want to wing it either when my kids were that age -- but if it's a long trip, you could consider leaving the last three to five days open until closer? Because people often get their Olympic games tickets more than a year ahead, they rush and block rooms ... and then cancel or shorten their trips once it's time. We found at the South Korea Winter Olympics in 2018 that hotels that had been fully booked or very very expensive when we were trying to reserve nine months ahead, then had a ton of cheap rooms available right before when "blocks" got released or cancelled. People who told us they had spontaneously come over to South Korea and decided on the trip like two weeks before found amazing deals! (teeth gnashing, I had to find some inner peace on that one). If that's the case in Paris, you might find real deals starting in mid-late-July for rentals, and could come up to the city and see the marathons on the city streets and the tail end of the Olympic festivities. Might be worth considering leaving the last several days open to possibilities until July, see how things shake out, and then decide.

Also - if any of your family are distance runners, you can see the marathon all the way out to Versailles -- just track the time and place and get there early enough not to miss them because they're fast! Tickets only required for a few viewing stands, rest of it is usually just line up and cheer.

Good Luck!

Posted by
7 posts

FYI the original answer that says the Louvre and Orsay are closed during the Olympics - I don't think that's the case. I can't find any mention of that, and in fact a bunch of Paris museums are planning special exhibits about sports. Some roads are closed, and areas around venues and athletes village will be closed for security and to facilitate movement. Getting around places like the Eiffel Tower will not be normal (there are venues all around it -- beach volleyball is right there at the base of it, on the Champs de Mars!), but I can't find any references to attractions or museums being actually fully closed. Other than the Grand Palais, which is hosting fencing, but it's a special exhibit / fashion week type of place anyway. (Edited to add: seems like just the Eiffel Tower is closed, there are a lot of venues around the base and many roads there will be impacted, but museums are open.)

Posted by
876 posts

I think something that is getting lost in the focus in the Olympics is that August is also the month a large chunk of the population takes off and hits the beaches. The south of France is always crowded this time of year. (Or is by reputation. I admit I have not been there myself.) I can also picture this being a bit exacerbated by Parisians deciding to get out of Dodge during the festivities. I’ll also note that not all events take place in Paris. I know folks who are going to see the Women’s soccer quarterfinals in Marseilles.

This will certainly affect your accommodations. It’s also a little late in the game for booking some of that. This might dictate your decision right off the bat. As far as how this all ultimately impacts your sightseeing? Well, it feels like a real gamble. It should also be noted it is sure to be very hot, which could negatively impact both those things.

So, I’m in the “it’s crazy” camp. On the other hand, I think visiting the Lakes would be fantastic that time of year. Focusing on that and maybe Tirol sounds like a great summer trip. But I think Paris and France in general would be much more enjoyable next year.

Posted by
7 posts

These are all incredibly helpful replies. Each one of them is adding to our perspective as we decide what to do. We intend to decide soon since we know the clock is ticking when it comes to setting things up for the summer!

Posted by
1409 posts

@Annette. The French newspaper “Le Monde” published a story on January 5, 2024 about the closures of the Louvre and Musee D’Orsay during the Paris summer Olympics.

Posted by
1286 posts

The closure of Musee d’Orsay for 5 days in August was in 2023 not in 2024. Which makes sense because why would one hold a test event for The Olympics after the Olympics have already finished? See here for the message about the August 16-20 2023 closure on the website of the Musee d’Orsay https://www.musee-orsay.fr/en/whats-on/tours-and-workshops/special-museum-access-conditions-0

I can’t find any source that confirms that the Louvre and Musee d’Orsay will be closed during the Olympics. There is also no mention of this supposed closure on the website of either museum.

I did find a press release on the website of the Louvre about a special exhibit about the modern Olympics. The press release says this exhibit is held to accompany the Olympic and Paralympics Games
https://presse.louvre.fr/2024-temporary-exhibitions/

Posted by
1409 posts

The August 20-24 testing of competitors at the Musee D’Orsay is for the Paralympics athletes whose games begin in Paris on August 28.

Posted by
1286 posts

@Kenko: the only closure of the Musee d'Orsay in August that I can find is the closure in 2023. See this message on the website of the Musée d’Orsay;
“Access to the museum may be restricted from August 16 to 20, 2023 due to the tests for the 2024 Olympic Games events.”
https://www.musee-orsay.fr/en/whats-on/tours-and-workshops/special-museum-access-conditions-0

If you have information about a closure in August 2024, can you please place a link to that information? The same about the closure of the Louvre.
I’ve searched all over the internet and I can’t find anything about these museums being closed because of the Olympics. I think it will be very helpful information for visitors to Paris this summer. This includes myself, because even though I managed to get tickets to lots of Olympic events all over Paris, I also plan on visiting the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay and other sights during my 3 week stay in Paris in July/August.

Posted by
3 posts

Keep in mind 2024 Tour de France. Check when it is and evoid that period. Traffic and evrything is crazy.
Check if the tour takes place in the cities where you will be.
Keep in mind the Olympics too.

Posted by
2 posts

Be prepared for the summer heat in Provence and adjust your schedule accordingly, exploring outdoor activities in the cooler parts of the day.
Given the dynamic nature of events like the Olympics and potential changes in your itinerary, keeping some flexibility in your plans might add to the overall enjoyment of your trip.
Safe travels and I hope you have an amazing time exploring these wonderful destinations with your family!

Posted by
6884 posts

Keep in mind 2024 Tour de France. Check when it is and evoid that period.

Tour de France ends around 20 July. Not a problem here.