It has been a dreary, rainy spring in Paris. The sun peeks out from behind the clouds every so often, but usually for only a few minutes before being chased away by a cold, thundering shower.
Because of the miserable weather, the city has not yet bloomed. The flowers in the Tuileries Gardens haven't opened, and there have been few days when Parisians have been able to take in a quiet moment at a sidewalk cafe.
Strangely enough, the demonstrations that have rocked the city since April have added just about the only vitality to this gloom. Farmers burning imported meat made a spectacle on the lawns in front of the Invalides. Protesting doctors carried stretchers down the boulevards.
The student protests, too, were originally marked by a party-like atmosphere. ''C'est la fete (party),'' many said, explaining that an evening marching and chanting with friends beat studying for next month's exams.
With Paris mired in rain and taken over by demonstrations, it is natural that vacation-loving Parisians are thinking about getting away from it all. Ever since the Socialists decreed recently that Frenchmen could spend only some $300 per person outside the country, deciding where to go for the traditional August vacation has become an obsession.
The problem is that there is no room for the estimated 1.3 million extra French holidaymakers staying at home this year. Resort areas such as the Riviera and Brittany are already booked.
To make room for everybody, the government announced that it is going to spend about $7 million on creating new vacation spots. Some 130,000 beds are being installed in mountain areas, mostly in schools. And some 100,000 more camping spots are being created in such exotic spots as Army camps.
Many Parisians, though, are not willing to forget about Capri and Disneyworld and take the family to a spruced-up Army camp. Not surprisingly then, getting around the currency controls has become big business.
The easiest escape route is to buy a pre-paid tour. Sales of package holidays paid for at home in francs have taken off. But for the many individualistic Parisians who don't want to travel in groups, newspapers have been suggesting dodges ranging from transferring money illegally to stuffing it in socks.
''Of course we are going to take our August vacation in Israel,'' declared one mother.''My son is going to be bar mitzvahed in Jerusalem.''
Another way to get away from it all is to watch television. Much air time lately has been devoted to sunny shots of the Cannes Film Festival. Every day, the popular midday news opens with a tanned and short-sleeved Yves Mourousi, France's Dan Rather, sitting next to a movie star - Isabelle Adjani, Robert Duvall, or whoever else's film is to be shown that day at the festival.
This made such fine publicity that several hundred students last week took the cue. Reminiscent of action their predecessors took in 1968, the students charged the police outside the main hall and went straight to Mr. Mourousi's studio to demand air time.
Mr. Mourousi had no choice but to cooperate. So Parisians who were tuning in to forget the protests and holiday problems instead had to listen to angry students condemn proposed education reforms.
More student demonstrations are scheduled for Tuesday when the education reform bill goes before the National Assembly. But unless the protests turn violent, most Frenchmen will probably ignore them. They will be watching the French tennis open instead.
The tournament, which begins Monday at the Roland Garros stadium in the Bois de Boulogne, will dominate television here during its two-week run.
''The tournament has become too big for anybody to pass up,'' beams French tennis federation president Phillippe Chartrier. ''We're just behind Wimbledon and the US Open.''
Prize money, which was less than $100,000 a decade ago, has soared to more than $1 million this year. Tickets for the final were sold out weeks ago.
What would instantly end all the talk about the gloomy spring would be a good showing by hometown hero Yannick Noah, who made the quarter finals last year. The French have made it clear they expect more of him this time around.
The nationalistic French won't like it if Noah falters. But worse would be a tournament soaked in rain.