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August In Paris

Imagine that eerily quiet Thanksgiving Day feeling that happens for one day in America -- but if it lasted for an entire month.
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The French are famous for not picking up their dogs' poo, or as they call it in French "les crottes" (a word so cute even I want to pick it up). When I first heard this, I began to worry about the potential future for the bottoms of my shoes, but as it turns out there are no dogs here, so its a non-issue. In fact, no one's here.

It's August in Paris, which means that the entire French population abruptly vacates the city to focus on more important things like raising their life expectancy, improving their tans and (paradoxically) not getting cancer. Stores are closed, cars are allowed to park wherever they want and you can literally walk for blocks without seeing a single other person/dog turd. Imagine that eerily quiet Thanksgiving Day feeling that happens for one day in America -- but if it lasted for an entire month.

No one told me this when I made plans to visit during this month, and upon my arrival I was surprised by how nonchalantly this dramatic news was presented. Typical interaction: "I just love your bread here! What time do you usually open in the morning?" "Oh thank you! We close tomorrow for six weeks."

A lot of the stores simply have hand-scrawled signs taped to their doors, as if to haphazardly explain that they're really sorry but they suddenly remembered they had to go relax for a month. (And don't ask me how any of them afford it because I have no earthly idea.)

The thing that actually surprises me the most about the whole phenomenon is that someone doesn't just come and rob the entire city of Paris. It'd be like that one Chicago block they discover in "Home Alone" -- but times an entire city. Harry, Marv, where are you guys? There are so many cheap toys and Christmas ornaments for you to steal! Oh right, they're probably on vacation. In fact, I wouldn't be at all surprised if French burglars also subscribe to this nebulous holiday -- I can picture them now, lackadaisically hitting the Southern beaches in Speedos and face masks and figuring they''ll get to it "when they get to it!"

Even the mannequins take the month off

Don't get me wrong, living in a ghost town has its perks, not the least of which is getting to play a little make-believe game I like to call "Queen of Paris" (I think it's pretty self-explanatory). But it can also be kind of annoying if you wanna say, go out to a bar or buy a tube of toothpaste. However, if you want to practice for the Zombie-pocalypse, or need to shoot a film that involves lots of beautiful city streets with no people on them, now's your time! Get over here -- it's like a giant free movie set! (Well, not technically "free" I imagine, but I don't see anyone around who's going to stop you).

On the positive side this experience has allowed me to fulfill a life long dream of mine, which was to know exactly what Zack Morris felt like every time he called a time out on "Saved By the Bell" (though I can't remember any episodes where his Time Out lasted for an entire month and speaking from experience, I can certainly understand why). Pondering this parallel at an empty coffee shop after having eaten the one eclair they took the trouble to bake today, I am suddenly struck with the brilliant idea for a spin-off. I would like to propose a solo-project for Zack, wherein the entire series takes place within an epic time out. It will be sort of like Castaway meets... the problems of a 15 year old boy in the early '90s. It could be a really great opportunity for Mark-Paul Harry Gosselaar to flex his acting chops, and I already have the perfect shooting location.

Zack, if you're interested, there's no time to waste -- seriously, what are you like, 45? -- I'll be free for the entire month of August and you know where to find me.

And no, a specific address will not be necessary. I'm the only person here.

See more photos/videos from Elizabeth's Parisian Travels at