Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Les Grands Vacances, French Style

It's mid-July and the Parisians have fled. Our neighborhood in the 7th arrondissement feels downright empty -- the Marché Saxe-Breteuil has only half its usual vendors, parking is easy to find, playgrounds are eerily quiet. Even some shops and restos have shuttered for their annual vacation. In fact, as much as a week before the last day of school, parents began packing their little ones off to la campagne to spend several weeks with grandmère and grandpère before they'll head out to join them in August. 
Cafes are emptying out...

It seems the extended summer vacation, for which Parisians are well-known, is alive and well. And although most cannot take off the six to eight weeks they once did, many do take at least three weeks in August. (Of course, I'm speaking here about a lucky segment of Parisians -- those with family country houses to which they've been escaping for generations.)

Although I knew about French summer vacations, it still surprised me to hear wishes of "bonnes vacances" and "à Septembre" on the last day of school. See you in September? Really? It was hard to believe that people would really be away for two whole months. But away they are indeed. At a recent party hosted by French friends, I heard some grumbling about the extended French vacation and its impact on the French economy. There is a growing sense that this time-honored tradition may not mesh well in the 24/7 global economy. Yet even as this awareness grows (especially among entrepreneurs, consultants and the self-employed), the French mind-set remains deeply devoted to their time off as not so much as privilege as a vital necessity. Unlike how I think of the typical American vacation packed with lots of things to do, sights to see and places to discover, the French use their vacations just to relax. Most stay in France and upon returning to Paris in September (for what they call la rentrée), reports will be shared not about exotic sights and travel adventures but about the quality of their relaxation. They return tanned (a sure sign of a successful vacation) and smiling (for a brief while anyway...) and ready to take on another year. (It seems the French calendar actually runs September to June -- and not just for families.) As for my little clan, were headed back to the States for a happily extended "home leave," -- first to Cape Cod, then on to California for quality time with both sides of our family. Greg actually gets to take four weeks off (in a row!) and we're looking forward to getting our feet on some American soil (and in the sand...).
Cape Cod, here we come!
Paris Plage, the "beach" on the Seine starts tomorrow and runs until late August. If you're coming to Paris this summer (especially with kids), you gotta go!
It's been almost a year since our last visit to the States during which time the kids have become little Frenchies. It will be fascinating to see how they readjust to hearing and speaking English, seeing old friends and visiting old locales. Should be interesting. I'll keep you posted. What about you? Are you taking a summer vacation and if so, where are you headed? If plans will bring you to Paris, check back with me by the end of the week when I'll share my favorite Paris picks for visitors. Until then, bonnes vacances!


At July 18, 2012 at 1:18 PM , Blogger Pam said...

have a great vacation paige! we arrived here in France Saturday morning..just in time for Bastille day! Thanks for the "beach on the seine" tip. we are renting a house in Chaville (near Versaille) for a month before we can get into our Paris apartment. and boy oh boy do I need to learn some French!
Have fun on the Cape!

At July 18, 2012 at 11:13 PM , Blogger ChaumiereLesIris said...

Those with families disappear for the summer, but my experience is that younger people and those without young children travel when it's cheaper during the year and man the office during the summer. I've rarely found a French office to be entirely empty in August...unlike Italy...

At July 23, 2012 at 5:37 PM , Blogger Michelle Moller said...

Have a wonderful holiday and come back relaxed!


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