The parents-in-law came to visit this weekend. The weekend that was beyond “back of my neck getting dirty and gritty”-type hot.
The in-laws do not like the heat.
Yup. We had fun.
Actually, we did. It took some looking, but Paris isn’t all climb-the-Eiffel-tower, walk-up-the-Montmartre-hill and dodge-traffic-on-the-Champs-Elysees. Let me share.
Things to do in Paris when it is hot:
- Sit in the shade in Bois de Vincennes
It does not take many brain cells-even overheated ones- to figure out the place to be in 38 degrees Celsius is the shade. But then: where do you go? You need somewhere away from the street so the traffic fumes don’t add to your misery. Somewhere with enough people to watch, but not so many that you have to fight them for a seat. Ideally, there is water to stare at and create an illusion of cool. And finally, imperatively, there has to be ice cream for sale.
On a hot Saturday in August, Bois de Vincennes has it all. It might take a bit of determined stomping to get a shady bench, but that is what fathers-in-law are for. There is a lake with rowing boats, for the few brave souls who dare take on the full blaze of the sun. There are people milling about. There is a stand selling ice cream and fresh mint tea. And all within about 100 metres of the Porte Doree entrance, because we clearly never got beyond that. There was a heat wave, people. That’s no time to be traipsing around a park.
- Take a boat ride on the Seine
Your typical tourist boat probably won’t do the trick. I have not tested this theory, but I think after a summertime ride on one of the big, glass boats you would feel remarkably similar to freshly popped corn (hot and crowded, is what I’m saying). No, far better to find a small, canopied boat to take you up a quiet stretch of the Seine just outside city limits. Fresh air, a nice breeze and an enthusiastic guide (who will let you take a picture of yourself behind the wheel of the boat with the Eiffel tower in the background)- it is all rather lovely. Only thing missing is a cold drink, but that is what terraces are for. Which brings me to thing number 3:
- Have tall, cold drinks
There are many terraces in Paris to pick from, and we found they all feel v., v. good, as long as they serve tall glasses of cold liquids. However, in the evening, when things cool off a bit and you are ready to focus on thoughts beyond “must drink more, now”, L’Usine de Charonne in the 20th comes recommended. It is outside the usually tourist traipsing grounds, so chances are good for nabbing an outside seat. The waiters are kind, if a bit overly chipper for the weather. (It’s a heat wave, why is your tongue not hanging out with that running around?) And they make something called an Apple Mojito, which is a non-alcoholic delight of apple juice, lime juice, mint, sugar and sparkling water. I think you’ll like it.
- Eat outside the home
It is Paris, giving your tastebuds a work-out should be a given. However, you might be tempted to spend a few hours at a market (shade! colourful, cheering produce!) and do the cooking at your apartment. This would be a mistake. Not the market bit, that would be wonderful. Buy a melon you can smell from across the street and have a snack in the park. But stop there. You must not deny yourself the pleasure of sitting in an air-conditioned room and eating something that took absolutely no slaving over a hot stove- on your part. An entrecote never tasted as good as it did when I sat down in Le Dalou’s air-conditioned dining room on Saturday, sweaty palms around a cold house cocktail. I am not even sure the meat was seriously special, but as an entrecote experience, it was right up there with the best.
- And if you must cook, don’t turn on the stove
It is Paris, eating out every hot day is probably not an option. Unless you are an Arabian prince with serious oil money, in which case: won’t you buy me dinner too? So prepare food you must, but if there is ever a time for salads, an August heat wave is it. And I have a trick to make them an even better idea: lemonade vinaigrette. Not that I can claim ownership of this dressing- it was Heidi at 101cookbooks.com who came up with the genius idea. But share I must, because it is that good. I do not normally like sweet things in my salad (or any savoury food), but this just works. It is sweet but refreshing and it reminds me of tall, iced glasses of lemonade sipped through a straw on other hot summer days.
Also, it is easy. You take the juice of half a lemon (for one, smallish salad) and mix in about ¾ of a tsp of sugar until it is dissolved. Then you add some salt and about 3 tbsp of neutral-tasting oil. Mix, taste and adjust to your liking. Remember, you are going for lemonade memories here, so you want a little sweet with a gentle tang.
I loved it mixed with corn, pieces of cherry tomato, cucumber dice and some minced shallot, but I imagine most crunchy vegetables with a hint of sweetness would work. Just mix, dress and eat greedily with a spoon.
And that is what you do in Paris when it is hot.