Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Les Vacances d’Été

As you may or may not know, I recently took a little break from blogging.  A vacation so to speak. I feel no guilt about my little get-away.  I live in France.  And this is the land of holidays.  Not because it’s the place people go for their getaways, but because it’s the land of the most vacation days per year per capita.  There’s a little debate as to whether Italy gets more but hey…let’s not haggle!  It’s a boatload.  And July and August are the months when EVERYONE takes the largest share of their holiday allotment.

French workers are guaranteed at least 5 weeks of vacation per year with many being given as much as 8 weeks. Add to that legal holidays and the average number of paid vacation days is 37.  That compares to 13 in the United States.  And here in France the workweek is 35 hours.

I sold television advertising before I moved here to France.  I had to accrue my vacation throughout the year and by the time I added in doctors visits, appointments and other such nonsense, I could probably figure on a week. Add to that the expectation of 40 plus (and I mean plus) hours per week…and taking my computer on vacation in order to keep all my accounts in order, and …well…. sometimes I wondered if I wasn’t actually taking a negative number of vacation days.

As in all countries, those that have their own businesses work more and probably vacation less. But, believe me, they still take their time off.  After all, It’s good for your health!  Nobody seems to worry about the 2 or 3 weeks of lost revenue…and nobody finds some poor sod to mind the store while they’re gone.  They just shut 'er down!

So it’s August in I walked down the street today, numerous businesses were battened down. Doors locked, gates closed, shades pulled.  Taped to their windows were handwritten signs that say “On Vacation. Will open again September 1".  Or…”Finally on vacation. Will return  August 23”.  The gallery downstairs has a sign that simply says,  “Gallery reopens September”.  Smart guy… allows him a lot of leeway!   And today I saw a sign that said “On vacation August 15 –August 23. I want a beer!”  My friend Fehti went on vacation last month and he  had somebody (obviously a French person with some English knowledge) translate his sign into English as well.  It mistakenly said, “ Gone for Holydays.”  I guess the French do look at holidays as just a wee bit sacred.  And when the tobacco shops are closed, they always leave the address of the nearest tobacco that is open…we wouldn’t want any violence due to nicotine or lotto ticket addictions!

Every day in August there are traffic reports, particularly on Red Days (high travel days) letting ALL the vacationers know how long it’s going to take them to get where they’re going. I’ve learned to simply avoid the beach in August. If you can visualize oily sardines lined up head to tail in a tin, that’s exactly what the beaches are like this month.

If you don’t get there by 10 or 11 am, you might as well forget about finding your 6-foot square territory on which you’ll rest your weary, work-worn head and soak up some rays and some peace and quiet. There’s certainly enough sun to share here in southern France but not enough beach. And trying to get back to wherever you came from after a day at the beach is horrific. Take a picnic…you’ll need it for the car. 

I have found a couple of beaches that seem to be off the radar....but I'm not telling where!

I’m not even going to begin to debate the idea of this much vacation…does it work, does it not?  There are all kinds of studies, pro and con, that do that for me.  I do think there must be some sort of happy medium, particularly for a country like the United States where workers put in more hours than almost anywhere in the world.

But at this point, that’s not my worry. My chief problem is where is the next nearest open boulangerie now that mine is closed for two weeks and if I have a hankering for pastry, where will I go now that Patisserie Weibel has abandoned ship for a month?  Neither of them conveniently left an address of the nearest, open carb shop.

Bonnes Vacances!

Paintings Carry and Sardines courtesy of Gérald Wiechert


  1. Nothing to say really, just wanted to be the first to comment......

    Oh, Delana... Don't forget; as well as all the holidays and the public bank holidays, we also get to strike as well!

    Truly a workers paradise!

    All the best


  2. Dear Delana,

    Such a thing could never be heard of in the U.S. It does sound nice and a lot healthier.

  3. I wish I could bugger off for a month :(

  4. Ah les vacances. Je l'adore!Une glace, un parapluie, et la mer.

  5. It sounds so civilized. One of my friends from Dijon emailed me from his place in Morocco. "When do you return to France?" I asked stupidly.

    "August 20th."

    Sigh. That could have been my vacation, too. Je suis idiote.

  6. Sounds marvelous! That's my way of living. When I work I work hard and when I play I like to relax!

  7. I am off to Nice for my vacation for 9 precious days,I do not mind sharing the beach with a million or more bodies I just want to be in the South of France!!!!

  8. And here we are, stateside, slaving away each and every day....!
    Delana: We're having a "blogger meet" Sunday 9/5. Let's talk again (tell me how to do Skype?) and I'll fill you in. Friday morning????

  9. I love the sketch of the sardine tin...adorable!

    You're so right not to spill the names of any of the lesser known beaches. It's the same in Maine...the crowds in late summer at Old Orchard Beach and the other public beaches are exactly how you describe them to be in southern France. Thank goodness there are a few secluded beaches where you can enjoy a bit more than your "6-foot square territory" and enjoy some peace and quiet along with it!

    Profiter de ton vacances!

  10. Keith-always jockeying for first place. Geez!

    JoAnne-I know. We could go for a little more relaxation

    Piglet-Me too. Although I must admit, I'm kind of living a permanent vacation!

    Phil-Merde! J'ai oublié la glace! Il faut que je aille a la plage encore! Quelle horreur! Excuse me ,but my french is horrible.

    Lisa- you're not an idiot. Just American. It's not the same thing no matter what anybody says!

    Oh Tales- have a wonderful time. The beach is rocky. The trick is to sort of dig yourself a hole and take a cushion. bonne vacances!

    LibbY: I'm here. Can't wait to see you in Paris. I'll call you in a few minutes.

    Jo- Yep love the paintings. Courtesy of ex-boyfriend. Wish I owned them. I come from the landlocked midwest so beaches aren't really an issue. This is all new to me.

  11. How's the weather and beaches in September and October , maybe we'll wait till then to visit

  12. Jackye-September is glorious in Provence. The first time I came here was mid-september.


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