Saturday, July 31, 2010

Gone "en vacances"

It started with our favorite restaurant, Chez Gladines. We headed there a few weekends ago for one of their hugs platters of duck in Roquefort sauce and basque-style potatoes, only to be confronted with this:
(Dear clients, we have left on vacation. We will see you again from 7pm on Monday, August 2nd onwards. Have a good summer and a good vacation...the Chez Gladines team)

Dejected, we drank a pint at the bar across the street while we discussed our plan B, smiling in sad solidarity as we watched countless other students approach the restaurant only to turn away in disbelief.

The next strike was when I set out, folder of bureaucratic papers in hand, to the CAF office, to settle some problems with my socialized student rent remission:

(No CAF in July or August; reopening September 1st)

After that, I watched in bewildered American wonderment as each day another of the bakeries on my road pulled its blinds and closed its doors--for the following month! The Moroccan restaurant my office celebrated our last day in was out of kefta and lamb--they were closing the next day and trying to use up their remaining ingredients.

And now, even my office is closed. Friends I talk to back home are incredulous: "how have you already accrued vacation time? You've only been working what? 2 months?"

But no, I tell them, this is France: the country where the entire country goes on vacation. Together. Twice, even! (Once during the summer, and then again during ski season) And where do they go? Well, France, of course. Where else? As any Frenchman will tell you, they have everything they need here: party/wealthy beaches to the South, more subdued beaches to the North, surfing to the West, skiing to the East, sunny fields full of wines and chateaux in the middle--what more could you ask for?

It's good for the national tourism industry, I suppose, but not so much for French industry in the international market. Or their reputation, at least. The French even make fun of themselves, as evidenced by this ad for the Parisian", one of the free daily metro newspapers, which boasts being "the only Parisian that you can count on throughout the summer." In the poster shown here, they say "the only Parisian who will give you news all summer":
As for me? Yes, I'm officially "en vacances" but with my Master's exam fast approaching (end of August) I'm hitting the books instead of the beaches. Hélas! I hope to do a vacation day-trip or two, though, so we'll see. For now I'll just have to satisfy my urges to do as the French do by sipping my kir sauvignon from my wrought-iron window.

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