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  • Writer's pictureIan McKenzie

August in France: Popular summer destinations outside of Paris

“Ahhh-gust” in Paris--The summer heat is at its zenith, the shade of the trees in the Jardin du Luxembourg provide ample reprieve, and the Parisians are…nowhere to be found? For a city of 2 million inhabitants intramuros (that’s, “within the walls”, the historical city limits of Paris proper), extending to 12 million commuters in the outer region, Paris sure does get awfully quiet in the month of August. Shops have restricted hours–or close entirely–and locals sublet their apartments to visitors to the city for the whole month.

But where do locals go for a retreat from the populous bassin parisien ? Together we will take a look at some of the most popular French destinations outside of Paris.

Photo by Fabio Tura

Deauville, Normandie

A popular destination for Parisians and Hollywood stars alike, Normandy and more specifically, Deauville, has long been a summer destination for the well-to-do of the elite social classes. Connected 3 hours to Paris by train via Saint-Lazare station, Deauville is something of a time capsule of a glamorous past of train travel and leisure by the sea. Predating the TGV (the French bullet train), it boasts an unparalleled proximity to the city for a weekend beach getaway. Unlike the rocky, crowded beaches of Nice in the south, Deauville features classic broad, sandy beaches typical of the north, a longstanding casino, and picture-perfect changing cabins that make it look like something out of Great Gatsby. In September of 2024, Deauville will be hosting its 50th American Film festival. So, if you can plan a little late-summer trip as the sun is setting on “EuroSummer” (and flights are at their cheapest!), you should definitely try to make this a part of the family trip.

Languedoc / Photo by Brian Scott

Sète, Languedoc

Heading down to the Côte d’Azur, a lesser-known but valiant cousin to the neighboring Montpellier and further-flung Nice, the island town of Sète is a wonderful place to discover France’s mediterranean climate without all the bustle of busier tourist destinations. In addition to its sunny weather, smiling locals, and insanely fresh shellfish. Sète has a tradition of jousting–yes, jousting–on boats! If you plan your visit right, you can see teams of water jousters navigating the canals attempting to knock off the other team's man. If you were to put Medieval Times on water, and replace the overpriced chicken with fresh calamari nibbles, and exchange the surrounding parking lot in New Jersey for the Mediterranean, you would have an unforgettable evening in Sète!

La Route des vins d’Alsace

When we think of ‘vacation’, we’re less tempted to look inland. Unfortunately, this would mean passing up some great destinations! Nestled along the Rhine river, the geographic border with Germany, Alsace is a beautiful, quiet region in the heart of Europe boasting vast natural expanses as well as some of the “most beautiful villages of France” (yes, that is an actual classification)! And, let’s be honest: who doesn’t first think of storybook houses and wine when they think of the best France has to offer?

Celebrating 70 years in 2023, La Route des vins d’Alsace is a charming way to explore French wine and one of the lesser-known, though no less great, regions of viticultural production. On bike as the tradition of French cyclists would have it, or just on foot, there’s no bad way to taste wine in this region and the local tourism board wouldn’t have it any other way.

Overseas Departments

Part of France’s colonial legacy includes overseas departments (think, Hawaii) and territories–roughly an equivalent of Guam, Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands to the U.S.

Immensely rich in natural resources and representing incredible linguistic and cultural diversity, these overseas territories comprise very fascinating facets of modern France.

These overseas territories span the globe. In the Pacific: New Caledonia, French Polynesia; the Indian Ocean: La Réunion, La Mayotte; the Caribbean: La Guyane, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Saint Barthélemy. There is even an island east of Novia Scotia in the north Atlantic called “L’Île Saint-Pierre”.

While too far-reaching to summarize in their geographic let alone anthropologic scope, these overseas destinations are as French as the Eiffel Tower or the Tour de France and should not be forgotten when planning any international destination!

Whether your goal is to see the landscapes of the great impressionists in Normandy or to taste the rich fruits of the tropics, France has something for everyone! What better reason to Learn French in Brooklyn than for that upcoming trip? Bon voyage!

By Ian McKenzie:

Ian is a French teacher at Learn French Brooklyn with a passion for language, culture and pedagogy. He has studied and lived in Normandy, France and his students of all ages benefit from his range of teaching experiences at colleges and middle school. He enjoys the arts, phonology and hanging with his cat, Seymour.


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