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Paris has all but exhausted the superlatives that can reasonably be applied to any city. Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower have been described countless times, as have the Seine and the subtle (and not-so-subtle) differences between the Left and Right Banks. Yet, what writers have never been able to even slightly reflect is the grandness and magic.
Paris probably has more familiar landmarks than any other city in the world. As a result, first-time visitors often arrive in the French capital with all sorts of expectations: of grand vistas, of intellectuals discussing weighty matters in cafés and of romance along the Seine. If you look hard enough, you can probably find all of those. But another approach is to set aside the preconceptions of Paris and to explore the city’s avenues and backstreets as if the tip of the Eiffel Tower or the spire of Notre Dame wasn’t about to pop into view at any moment.
You’ll soon discover (as so many others before you have) that Paris is enchanting almost everywhere, at any time, even ‘in the summer, when it sizzles’ and ‘in the winter, when it drizzles’, as Cole Porter put it.
The Paris basin lies midway between coastal Brittany and mountainous Alsace and is affected by both climates. The Île de France region, of which Paris is the centre, records among the lowest annual precipitation (about 640mm) in the nation, but rainfall is erratic; you’re just as likely to be caught in a heavy spring shower or an autumn downpour as in a sudden summer cloudburst. Paris’ average yearly temperature is just under 12°C (2°C in January, 19°C in July), but the mercury sometimes drops below zero in winter and can climb into the 30s in the middle of summer.