La Rentrée in France is as much a time of year as Christmas Week and Easter Week. It is the time when the French return to wherever they live. Many have spent the whole summer away in the south of France or in their country houses in Normandie. Now it’s return to work and return to school. In America, we see Back To School signs in department stores and book stores. Think quadrupling that energy and you might get close to the fuss that is La Rentrée.
In the larger grocery stores that also sell clothing and supplies, a whole section of the store will be devoted to La Rentrée. Whatever else had been there has been removed for the duration. I was in Carrefour (which is a HyperCarrefour) and doing a big shopping: loads of TP and Paper towels, cat food and cat litter. Things that I hope will last for awhile. Hoards of students were there in La Rentrée section. One rarely sees students in grocery stores. Backpacks, pencils, pens and refills, writing books, on and on and on. When I asked one of the women who works there where the gardening stuff had been moved to, she shook her head and lifted her shoulders: “It’s not here for awhile, madame” as if to say ‘what can you do?’
Although it is only September 4 and I just returned from Brittany, it is definitely not summer anymore. Though warm and lovely, the air feels like Fall. Very young children are screaming in happiness during their play breaks and the sound drifts up to my apartment. The metros are crowded again. The RER A, which always takes a summer break for repairs, is running again (This is the RER that goes from the west suburbs into Paris). All the stores are open and the streets are teeming with shoppers, people hurrying to the bus and students once more hanging out on all the corners.
For those of us who have always lived by the academic calendar, the year is now beginning. Time to organise everything. Time to put everything away that relates to summer. Time to get out those pens and pencils and get to work!!!
So from Paris, I wish you all a Bonne Rentrée!