Off-season travels

Crowds at VersaillesSummer is just around the corner and spring has brought with it warmer weather, longer days, brighter sunshine… and far more tourists. I already miss the off-season.

When we were in Paris in April, it was clear that tourist season had started. A morning at the Musée d’Orsay and a trip to Versailles confirmed it (see photo on the right).

I know that Paris is pretty much always busy and that the Easter holidays probably pumped up the number of visitors, but I found myself bemoaning the crowds.

From November through April, we enjoyed exploring new places with very few other travellers – lower prices, less waiting, more available tables. No jostling with tour groups, no line-ups for museums, no concerns about squeezing onto a train, no problems finding parking.

Of course, the tradeoff is generally colder, rainy-er weather but it’s hard to complain about the temperature outside while gaping at the Ghent Altarpiece in an almost deserted room, leisurely strolling through the Rijksmuseum, or joining vinters for a private tasting. Hailstorms and the necessity of mittens are concessions I’m generally willing to make.

But throughout the summer, there will be no mittens and lots of other travellers.

One of our goals with our grown-up gap year is to explore as much as possible and that means joining the throngs of tourists visiting Europe during high-season. I’m hoping we’ll be able to find a few places that aren’t so hectic in summer (like Strasbourg outside of Christmas-market time, the Alps without the skiing crowds), but I know I’ll be waiting for the colder weather of fall to help the crowds to dissipate!

Vive le hors-saison!

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