View from Rue Saint-Georges

Seaside Sojourns

Fleeing the heat of the French capital

By Thomas Chatterton Williams | July 24, 2019

With two small children and no air conditioning in our apartment, we’ve had unusually good luck this summer to leave Paris twice now for the coast of Brittany just when the mercury starts to climb. We accidentally dodged a heat bullet a month ago, the last time temperature records were broken in France. Now this Thursday, which is forecast to be the hottest ever recorded in the French capital—an astonishing 110 degrees—we’ll be holed up in the tiny port town of Doëlan along the southern side of Finistère.

Some years ago, our friend Clementine’s late grandmother, a writer with a passion for fishing, had bought a small stone house here with a wide terrace filled with rose bushes and hydrangea overlooking the harbor and the ocean beyond. The house is modest in size but exquisitely set in its surroundings—a scene so beautiful that it’s featured on postcards of the area. In the mornings, the neighbor goes out on his hand-painted boat, the Mélanie, and brings back mounds of spider crabs. A few days ago, having returned to port, he handed us a basket full, which we steamed and cooked in wine sauce with garlic and lemon zest and tossed over pasta. It was one of the simplest and most delicious meals I’ve had all year.

Later, when I texted Clementine to thank her for the house, I asked her why we live in the city in the first place. Her response was philosophical: “We live in Paris so we can get away!” Deep down, I know it’s true, but sometimes I’m not convinced.

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