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How to Stay Cool on Hot Paris Days

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If you’re visiting Paris more than a few days, one thing you’ll learn about the city is that its summertime weather is very capricious.
In the morning, you may need to bundle up in a warm sweater; by afternoon, you’ll wish you were wearing shorts. Or vice versa. But every now and then, you’ll get a stretch of blazing hot weather that will leave you whimpering for mercy if you’re not prepared. Whiling away some time in a department store or museum may not bring the relief you’re looking for as most businesses in Paris, being very energy-conscious, do not necessarily have air-conditioner. To get really cool, you’ll have to be creative. Here are a few tips.

1. Swim on the Seine.


Swim on the Seine? No, that’s not a grammatical error. In 2006, the Piscine Josephine Baker, a large public swimming pool, made its debut atop a barge on the Seine. Named for the famous African-American expatriate actress/dancer that won the prestigious Croix de Guerre, the pool can accommodate up to 350 people, and has a wading pool for very little ones. There is also a café, sundeck and gym for those wanting to do more than splash around. The pool is open year-round and has a sliding roof that opens in such a way that swimmers feel as if they actually are swimming in the Seine. Piscine Josephine Baker, Quai François Mauriac, 13th arrondissement, Paris. Tel. 1 56 61 96 50. Open daily, 10am-10pm (Mon-Fri.) 10-8pm (Sat.-Sun.).

2. Go to Paris Plage.


Paris seriously pities those who can’t make it to the beach during the summertime, so in 2002, the city decided to bring the beach to them. Every year since then, some two thousand tons of sand, 50-something palm trees, and huge thatched beach umbrellas are imported to the banks of the river Seine transforming them into a makeshift beach. Sure, you have to use your imagination a bit, but you’ll soon forget that you’re strolling along an expressway, not a boardwalk, and will get into the spirit of things. In past years, Paris Plage has made every effort to keep visitors cool by importing a large swimming pool, setting up many stands with cold drinks and ice cream, and erecting misty water sprinklers every 500 yards or so. Definitely check it out – the kids especially will love it. Paris Plage, July 20-Aug. 20, 2009.

3. Duck into a church.


Thank heavens for the old stone churches of Paris. Not only are they sanctuaries of peace, they are sanctuaries from the heat! When the sun is getting too much for you, take the time to admire the interior of some of the lesser-known beauties (stopping into favorites such as Notre-Dame or Sacre Coeur will not necessarily cool you off as the number of other tourists will raise your temperature considerably). Try the cool interior of St. Germain l'Auxerrois, a gorgeous 15th century church, located across the street from the Louvre. The church used to be the house of worship for the royals and nobles living in or visiting the Louvre in the days when it was a palace. It has a lovely bell tower that dates from the 12th century, and a second smaller bell tower known for being the bell tower that signaled the start of St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. 2 place du Louvre, 1st arrondissement, Paris. If you’re on the Left Bank, stop into the Église St-Germain-des-Prés, the oldest church in Paris, dating back to the 6th century. As it is so old, its style is Romanesque rather than Gothic, but its interior is just as cool. 3 Place St-Germain-des-Prés, 6th arrondissement, Paris.

4. Eat Ice Cream.


An old standard for hot days, but Paris has some exceptionally good ice-cream. The most renowned is Berthillon, which is probably named in every Paris guide book as ‘ the best ice-cream in Paris.’ Although Berthillon only has one shop on the Ile St. Louis, many restaurants serve Berthillon ice cream: you’ll know it when you eat it, because it always called by name on the menu. Berthillon, 31, rue Saint-Louis-en-l'Ile, 4th arrondissement, Paris. There is, however, a new popular spot for ice cream in Paris: Amorino, a chain that sells Italian gelato. I must break with impartiality here, and admit that I am absolutely mad for Amorino’s gelato and will brave the longest lines (an inevitability on warm days) to get my pistachio, banana, and fior di latte (“milk flower”) combo. Just try it. Amorino, 31, rue Vieille du Temple, 4th arrondissement; 4, rue de Buci, 6th arrondissement, plus 11 other Paris locations.

5. Have a Perrier-Menthe.


When the weather is warm, you may notice a considerable number of people at sidewalk cafes sipping a glass of a rather lurid green liquid. This classically French drink is called Perrier-Menthe, and is simply a small bottle of Perrier (or some other sparkling water) mixed with a few tablespoons of mint-flavored syrup. Okay, yes, often the taste is compared to watered-down mint mouthwash, but somehow after a few swigs, you forget about that and simply feel cool and refreshed.