By MARK HUME originally appeared in The Globe and Mail travel section.
Friends told us Paris was different in the winter, that it was better, as if somehow the cold rains of November and December had washed away the false patina left by the tourist crowds of summer.
Paris, which has a population of just over two million, gets more than 35 million foreign visitors a year, and most of them come in the six months from May to October. Notre-Dame de Paris, the Gothic cathedral that looms majestically over Île de la Cité, gets 13.6 million visitors a year. At the Basilique du Sacré-Coeur, which looks out from the heights of Montmarte, 10.5 million visitors annually are stunned into silence, and the Musée du Louvre, with a collection of art that is mind-numbing, draws 8.3 million tourists.
In the heat of summer, when Parisians largely flee to the seaside, tourism peaks. Want to meet an American in Paris? Book a trip in July or August. You will also meet a lot of people from a lot of countries – and most of them will be in front of you in a lineup.