La Rentree

bonne-rentree_008.jpgLa 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.

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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?’

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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.

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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!

A bientot,

Sara

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Paris: Back Home

Anyone who has ever visited Paris in August immediately senses that something is out of whack.  Other than the Parvis in front of Notre-Dame or the Tour Eiffel, Paris is practically empty.  It is the Congée Annuelle otherwise known as August.  There are plenty of parking spots on the street, seats are empty on the metro.  At least half the retail stores are closed for the month with a sign thanking us for our understanding.

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I walked outside of my apartment building this morning at 10:45.  There wasn’t a person to be seen.  It was eerily quiet.  The Boulangerie on the corner is closed.  Two out of the three fruit and vegetable markets are closed.  The Greek deli is closed. The pizza and sandwich shop is closed.  The one and only Women’s clothing shop is closed.  The chocolate shop is open with an ice cream stand outside the door.

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Where Parisians live, it is silent.  Where tourists gather, there are more people than ever.  Trying to walk across the Parvis to meet a friend at a cafe was like negotiating one of the hardest obstacle slalom courses one could find.  Tourists don’t walk.  They amble—as they should.  How else is one to take in the beauty that is Paris?  However, if you live here, as I do, tourist places should be avoided at all costs.  Especially if you need to be somewhere.  It is a good reminder of the awe that most of us felt when we first arrived.  When rambling was the height of entertainment.

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Walking towards Cathedral Notre-Dame
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Line snaking around the Parvis–waiting to go inside Notre Dame.  Not nearly as crowded as the day I tried to cross it to get to a cafe.

Quinze Août (August 15th–The Assumption of Mary) is a holiday within the vacation month.  Then absolutely everything shuts down.  I asked Barbara, “Isn’t it a contradiction to have everyone celebrating a Catholic holiday in a Socialist Country?”                           She responded “no, not at all.  Unlike the US, we have total separation of church and state.”                                                                                                                                                    (Note: now that Macron is President, France is no longer a Socialist country).

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The stores that are open have tiny signs in their windows telling us that things are still at “very small prices.”  Les Soldes is over but they hope to get rid of all their stock before La Rentrée.  La Rentrée which literally means The Re-Entry.  When everyone comes back to Paris, back to work and back to school.

But we have one more week of August yet to go!!!

A bientôt,

Sara

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