La Rentrée

Most of us know there are four seasons in the year. In France, there is a minimum of five seasons. The one we are in presently is known as La Rentrée. Literally the word mean ‘The Return’. It’s the time when all Parisians come home from wherever they spent August, and in some cases, July and August. Children prepare for school, and, even though the weather may still feel like summer, it’s the beginning of Autumn.

To understand “La Rentrée”, one has to understand the month of August. During August, almost everything stops. More than half of stores shut down. Restaurants, that are not in the tourist center, close for the month. The trains all do whatever repair work needs to be done. Many of the lines do not run. In August, the government is not to be found. As friends part for the summer, you can hear them say “A la rentrée” which loosely translates to “See you in September.” In other words, every single person in France knows that if you include ‘la rentrée’ in a sentence, you are referring to that season beginning September 1 when everything starts anew. Clothing stores have fresh stock. Children are back in school. The government gets back to work. And every supermarket has huge sections of space dedicated to schoolwork, creative work, and office work. If you have a favorite pen and haven’t been able to find another just like it, chances are very good, you will find it at the Carrefour or Monoprix during La Rentrée. It is a time of celebration and many parents will hang around their children’s school catching up with a drink or two in their hands.

I love it when every store stocks up on notebooks, paper products, pens of all different sizes, tips, and comfort. I will stand far too long in front of these aisles telling myself I don’t need anything (I have enough journaling notebooks to last me well into the next decade), and still end up at the cash register with a new pen and perhaps a folder. I love to write on paper. The computer is fine but pen to paper…there is nothing like it.

And … Writing. I did not make it into the Stanford Certificate Program. When I received the e-mail, my first feeling was of disappointment. My second was relief. I had started a summer course at Stanford Continuing Education in Short Story writing. I was beginning to get an idea of how much time just one course requires. I had no trouble finding the time. I was like a human vacuum cleaner sucking up all the knowledge that was available. So, along with reading published short stories and commenting on them, we each wrote a short story, had a workshop and every student commented on every other students writing. It was terrifying and glorious. When I magnified the work out two years, I wasn’t at all sure. Did I have it in me to write this novel I want to write. Or perhaps I should be sticking to what I do well, non-fiction writing. Since it was August and no one thinks in August, I put off any contemplation until September. I’ve signed up for another Stanford course and cannot wait for it to begin. And, by the way, I got an A+ in my class. I believe it is the first A+ I’ve ever gotten in my life!!!

Female and male peacock after mating season has ended. The male has shed his tail.

Lastly, and I’m taking huge license with this one, even Parc de Bagatelle and some of its creatures are starting anew. The male peacocks are molting which means they are shedding their gorgeous tail feathers!! I had no idea. After mating season ends, since tail feathers are not regenerating, they slowly fall out. When I was there this past Sunday, there were only a few colorful feathers on the backs of the males I saw. Here is some fascinating information from a website called: peacocksuk.com

Male peacock last week in August

“The peacock has around 150 to 175 long tail feathers or long covers which sit over shorter strong tail feathers. These shorter feathers  support the weight of the long tail covers which grow to three to four feet long. As the peacock matures to five or six years old, the peacocks tail feathers grow in size and the number. As the peafowl reaches maturity the eyes on the tail feathers become larger. At maturity the peacocks tail will be constant each year as long as the peacock is in good health. If several males are kept together we have found that the subservient males will not grow or develop a tail as striking or large as the dominant peacock.  If these birds are removed from the pen with the dominant male the upper tail feathers then develop! After the peacocks long tail covers have moulted the new tail begins to grow in the autumn, reaching maturity in time for the next mating season in the spring.”

A bientôt,

Sara

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.

Unknown.jpeg

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?’

images-3.jpeg

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.

images.jpeg

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

images-1.jpeg

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.

IMG_1637.JPG

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.

IMG_1630.JPG

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.

IMG_1627.JPG
Walking towards Cathedral Notre-Dame

IMG_1628.jpg
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).

IMG_1631.JPG

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

IMG_1636 2.jpg

 

 

%d bloggers like this: