May Day is a public holiday in France too – in fact, it’s an even bigger affair for our friends across the Channel. As well as being a spring celebration, the French have also held International Workers’ Day on 1 May since 1889. Today, there are regularly organised marches and parades, and the atmosphere is only boosted in sunny weather. Make the most of your bank holiday by hopping across the Channel to Paris, where you can celebrate May Day exploring outside.
Flowers in France
Nothing signals the warmer season like freshly sprung flowers, and in France, lilies of the valley are given to close friends and family on May Day as a token of appreciation. Legend has it that while on a 1560 visit to the Dauphiné province, King Charles IX and his mother Catherine de Médecis were presented with a bouquet for luck by French knight Louis de Girard. The elated king then decided to make presenting the flowers to ladies of the court an annual May Day tradition.
While the custom’s popularity decreased over time, it was resurrected. For one day only, the flowers are allowed to be sold tax-free – so join in the fun by either popping a sprig in your jacket pocket or gift a bunch to a friend. To see some of the most beautiful flowers in Paris, head to one of its serene gardens. Nestled in the centre of the city is Jardin du Luxembourg, a peaceful garden getaway from the bustling city life. Take the time to walk through the orchard, catch one of the free musical performances or simply sit and soak up the springtime sun.
Scenic views of the River Seine
Paris has many exciting and bustling streets to stroll through – but to see the city from a different point of view, take to the water. A river cruise on the Seine guarantees you a brilliant view of iconic buildings such as the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame Cathedral, and ensures you avoid the crowds too. If you’ve got some time to spare afterwards, find a spot to sit and dangle your legs over the water, dipping into a book as you survey the peaceful scene.
The charm of Montmartre
Ever dreamed of sitting outside a Parisian café with a coffee and croissant in hand, watching the world go by? Then Montmartre is the place to go. There are more cafés here than you can shake a French stick at, meaning it’s perfect for enjoying freshly brewed coffee and indulgent pastries in the sun. In the city of romance, Montmarte certainly lives up to expectation; you’ll sense it wandering down narrow alleys between ivy-clad buildings as you explore the city’s historic district. Leave the high heels at home on this occasion though – once you’ve explored the cobbled streets, you’ll want to walk up the hill to the Sacré-Coeur, a stunning church with an incredible mosaic in its apse. The basilica is also the highest point in the city, so head up to the dome and take in the incredible panoramic views of Paris.
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Featured image by Moyan Brenn.