Paris Packing Tip: Umbrellas for when it drizzles…

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Prepared with a parapluie at the Château de Versailles. Photos by Theadora Brack.
Prepared with a parapluie at the Château de Versailles. Photos by Theadora Brack.

Sometimes in Paris, a little rain must fall.  No matter when you’re visiting the City of Light—and light sprinkles, don’t forget to pack a parapluie. The weather here can change at the drop of a Schiaparelli hat. While showers don’t typically last long,  I recommend toting a compact “parapluie” (umbrella).

Make it rain

“Never carry an umbrella in Paris! There’s a law,” says moon-eyed Audrey Hepburn to Humphrey Bogart in Billy Wilder’s 1954 classic, “Sabrina.”

Well, Sabrina, that’s not quite true. In fact, it was the French who invented the folding parapluie (literally, “rain protector”).

Soon it's gonna rain.

Soon it’s gonna rain.

Though umbrellas have been around since the time of the pharaohs, they originally served as protection from sun, not rain (“umbrella,” after all, means “little shadow”). The folding waterproof umbrella didn’t make its splashy debut until 1709. Jean Marius, a master purse maker (“maitre boursier,” who also happened to invent the portable harpsichord), came up with a design that was water-resistant, lightweight, and practically overnight, terribly chic.

Made in France

It’s probably no surprise that it was “Sun King” Louis XIV who issued one of the first Royal Patents for the parapluie—as protection for his wigs, according to palace gossip at Versailles.

Marius quickly launched history’s first publicity campaign for a fashion accessory, landing product endorsements from other notable bigwigs, including Ben Franklin (who even hated hair pieces). Soon it became one of the most highly sought-after French souvenirs.

But what would an 18th-century Cheapo do?

Those early parapluies were indeed stylish and sturdy, but hideously expensive. Ah, but rest assured, the Cheapos-of-the-day weren’t left empty-handed. Like today’s Vélib’ Bike Program, umbrellas could be rented by the hour at tourist hot spots and bridge crossings throughout Paris.

Catherine Deneuve in "Les Parapluies de Cherbourg."

Catherine Deneuve in “Les Parapluies de Cherbourg.”

Don’t leave home without it

And you won’t either, dear Cheapo, if you pay attention to some famous Paris films before you pack.

For example, in “The Last Time I Saw Paris,” heroine Helen (Elizabeth Taylor) loses her umbrella not once, but twice, before finally succumbing to pneumonia. Not you!

Les parapluies also loom large in “Les Parapluies de Cherbourg,” where Catherine Deneuve really knows how to sell an umbrella. They’re even featured in “Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain.”

By the way, bringing a “little shade” with you can be a lifesaver on those hot summer days, too.

Shopping Tip

If you forgot to pack an umbrella, you can pick up a relatively cheap (and pretty) one at Monoprix. Selling everything from groceries and wine for your picnic, to sunglasses, band-aids, and cute skirts, it’s one-stop shopping for all your strolling needs.

If your umbrella goes bust

Thierry Millot, umbrella doctor.

Thierry Millet, umbrella doctor.

Umbrella broken? Don’t throw it out! Instead, stop by PEP’S (223, rue Saint-Martin, Passage de l’Ancre in the Marais), one of the last surviving umbrella repair shops in Paris.

This atelier is worth a visit even if your umbrella is in fine working condition. Repairing up to 10,000 umbrellas a year, PEP’S won’t stick it to you. An average repair costs just 10 to 15 euros, less than an umbrella. Good for the planet and your pocketbook.

“Petit ou grand, we’ll fix it. We’re not snobs,” said the resident “docteur des parapluies,” Thierry Millet, with a wink. “Elegant women always have beautiful umbrellas.”

About the author and photographer: Theadora Brack is a writer working in Paris. Her fiction has appeared in more than 30 literary publications, including 3AM International, The Smoking Poet, Beloit Fiction Journal, Mid-American Review, and the Haight-Ashbury Literary Journal.

About the author

Theadora Brack

About the author: Theadora Brack is a writer working in Paris. Her fiction has appeared in more than 30 literary publications, including 3AM International, The Smoking Poet, Beloit Fiction Journal, Mid-American Review, and the Haight-Ashbury Literary Journal.

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7 thoughts on “Paris Packing Tip: Umbrellas for when it drizzles…”

  1. Pingback: Ring-a-ding-ding! We have a winner! | Budget Travel Tips - EuroCheapo

  2. What a charming piece on umbrellas and preparing for rainy days in Paris! Not only is this article helpful in terms of the many excellent suggestions but I find the writing to be both entertaining and educational. Love the references to film, the clever writing, and the tips — on my next trip to Paris, I am heading straight to Monoprix and I want to meet the “umbrella doctor”! I hope to see more articles like this one on your website.

    Reply
  3. Sandy Langley

    An umbella repair shop! An umbrella doctor! That is so cool! The rain pattern of Paris sounds like Florida daily downpours during one of their normal rainy seasons. One day of getting caught in these rains make you appreciate Mr. Millet!

    Reply
  4. Such a great article! Not only is it helpful for someone planing a trip to Paris, but it is very intriguing as well! I love the history and reference to a classic Audrey Hepburn movie. Wonderful!

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  5. Now *that’s* a smart idea! The last time we went, we wasted so much time huddling under awnings when it rained five or six times a day. You’re right, it never rains all day like it does in the US (in France maybe even the weather is “petit”?) but it can sure slow you down if you don’t have something to keep you dry. I had no idea that umbrellas for rain were invented in France, but I can see why–it would be a hassle to keep putting on and taking off a hot, damp raincoat all day. Great suggestion!

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  6. I wish I read this before I went to Paris… it rained for two days. Love the history lessons and the references to the classic movies from ago!

    Reply

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