After a winter of meteorological discontent, nothing quite lifts the spirits like the prospect of an April vacation. As the mercury starts to rise, flowers are starting to bloom, festivals kick it up a notch, and artists and poets converge on café patios to bask in the soft April sun. From Europe’s eternal cities, to Mexico’s surreal beaches, to Japan’s post-modern brand of Zen, or the mind-blowing exoticism of North Africa, there is no better time for travelers to plot an escape. You can beat the maddening summer crowds, spare yourself the sticker shock of peak hotel rates and airfares, and avoid the frustrations of packed restaurants and long museum lines. Forget T.S. Eliot’s “cruelest month,” April is all about carpe diem.
Come April, once Europe’s winter malaise has lifted, the ancient and modern glories of the City of Lights are worthy of every cliché. In spite of the odd downpour, Paris in the springtime rarely disappoints. Cherry and apple blossoms, daffodils, sweet peas, and tulips form an invigorating backdrop to the city’s sublime cultural attractions. As booksellers return to the bridges and banks of the Seine and Parisians flock to the pavement cafés of the Latin Quarter and St Germain, an intoxicating, creative energy fills the air.
If the weather isn’t cooperating, there’s no shortage of breathtaking art to be admired in the city’s stellar museums, churches, and avant-garde galleries. There’s the French Gothic masterpiece of Notre Dame, the majestic domes of the Sacré Cœur, and the polemical Center Pompidou bearing its inner bowels for all the world to see. The Louvre’s monumental collection (35,000 works) spans paintings and artifacts from the Middle Ages through the 19th century. Crowd pleasers include: Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa; the Seated Scribe; Venus de Milo; and Michelangelo’s The Dying Slave.
Housed in a former Art Nouveau train station, the Musée d’Orsay is a national treasure, boasting the world’s most significant impressionist and post-impressionist collection. From the sumptuous Luxembourg Gardens to the harmonious Tuileries, Paris’s public gardens are at their technicolor best in spring, with pathways lined with flowers overlorded by centuries-old sculptures — the perfect place to grab a baguette loaded with pungent cheese and slivers of ham to watch the locals at play.