Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Off-Season Tourism

Or, Paris in the Spring
Paris in the spring. What a romantic notion. Or is it?

My year abroad coincided with the so-called shoulder and off-season tourism periods. Nevertheless, I made the most of my generous French holidays to travel the country and continent. I was immediately won over to off-season travel by the breathtaking beauty of autumn in Belgium.  No clearer were the benefits of dodging peak-season travel as when I visited Paris in the spring.

Last April I accompanied my friend Emily on a trip to Paris the weekend of April 8-10.  She had courageously and determinedly enrolled to run the Marathon de Paris, and I was tagging along as moral support and to undertake my own marathon of Paris' museums.  (Read about Emily's marathon here.)

There was a stark contrast in the crowds at the museums between the weekend of the marathon and when I returned to Paris  with my mum just three weeks later.  Emily and I visited l'Orangerie on Friday and I visited the Musée Marmottan Monet on the Sunday; the time spent waiting in line to enter was so short as to be negligible.  Three weeks later, in early May, my mum and I arrived at the Louvre first thing to discover a line already hours-long.  Instead we decided to visit Notre-Dame and the Sainte-Chapelle (which I had never seen); we spent a good hour waiting in line to visit the latter.  The next morning, my mum and I arrived at the Musée d'Orsay first thing and spent 45 minutes in line.  It was worth the wait, especially as it was my mum's first time in Paris, but it was interesting to note the dramatic increase in the number of tourists only three weeks later.

Have you ever travelled during the off-season? What was your experience? How have you coped with mass crowds of tourists during peak seasons? Do you have any tips to share?

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