When we first got to Paris back in June, many folks made reference to shops closing during August to allow for vacations. Having been to Europe dozens of times before, I was certainly aware of the practice – which enables shop owners to fully close their businesses (of all types) and escape the city for 2-4 weeks. The French (and some other European countries as well) greatly value taking time off – so much so that they’ll ignore the income for upwards of four weeks or more to benefit from the vacation instead.
But as a visitor to the city, it’s likely hard to appreciate just how many businesses/shops close. This is primarily because you don’t depend on them as a visitor to the city. You likely don’t have daily routines that are otherwise tied to a specific store being open. It may interrupt your dinner plans at a favorite restaurant during your trip, but likely not day to day activities.
About two weeks ago, the closures started in full force. Of course, many places of business here close at sprinkled times across the summer for a few weeks – but this was when the tidal wave of stores hit.
For us, that tidal came by way of our source of baguettes. And cheese. And meat. But mostly, the bread.
You know you’re in trouble as you approach a given store when you see from a distance a standard 8.5×11” sheet of paper with (typically) a hand-written note taped to the window.
The notes specify their date of return, which is when they will be open again. Most places seem to return the last week of August, or the first week of September – usually with a total of 2-4 weeks off (aout = August, juillet = July, also note that you don’t capitalize the month names in French):
This past week was definitely the peak though, due to the French national holiday of Assumption Day occurring back on Wednesday (more on that in the next day or two – it was incredible watching from our window). Thus many business that haven’t otherwise been closed took that as a queue to take the full week off as well:
As for our baguettes, we’ve had to turn to the backup baguette place instead. Distance wise it’s roughly the same – only about a 100 yards away from our place, but the quality isn’t quite as good. Plus, our main place is located at an outdoor market that’s normally teaming with open shops (much less busy now). Most of the static storefronts that line up behind the tents are now closed up until later this month:
Above, you can see (left to right) the delicatessen shop (Charcuterie, sorta like the store-made things you’d find the in fresh counters at Whole Foods), the cheese shop (Fromager), the wine shop (Vins), and the bakery (Le Boulanger). The fish shop (Poissonnerie) along with the Boucherie (Butcher) are to the left, also closed.
The cheese and wine guys did stay open until this past weekend, but have taken off the next week or so. Both of the guys that work in both of those shops are awesome – so we’ll forgive them.
On the bright side – we are trying out places that we otherwise might not have tried. For example tonight I got my baguette at a different bakery than even the backup bakery. Albeit simply because it just opened up after being closed since back in June. 😉
Next year we’ll learn to just take off the time ourselves (we’re quick learners). Especially with the weather hitting 100*F today (I’m not going to convert that to Celsius – since it doesn’t matter – it was darn hot…and we don’t have A/C. Plus, it doesn’t sound as painful in Celsius as it does in Fahrenheit.).
Given the projected 101*F heat tomorrow, we’re spending the day at the beach. Well, the made-up sandy beach here in Paris anyway. Have a great remainder of your weekend everyone!
I really wish American’s would value vacation as much as the Europeans do. But it is a pain when everything shuts down. I was had to go outside Paris for work a few years ago and the genius of the Air Force sent me during this time of the year. Nobody was at EADS doing any work, so I hung out on that makeshift beach the whole time drinking wine and eating cheese.
It sounds a little like living in a resort/vacation community during the off season. We face that similar situation every winter (although there are still grocery stores open)
It’s a bit of a shock and even after nearly 9 years in France I still find it frustrating. Even more so the 2.5 hour closing for lunch from which they can turn up 20 minutes late after you’ve been waiting outside!
It’s all about culture and a really good help with understanding it can be had with this book :
link to amazon.com
You are in Europe now. That paper is probably A4, not US Letter sized. 🙂
I thought the same when I read about the standard 8.5×11″ format.
The European paper formats are a better solution, all sizes have the same ratio of height to width.
French do capitalize the months’ first letter.
Not sure if we should learn french grammar in front of a Chinese restaurant 🙂
I don’t know, but everything I can find on the Internets says you don’t captilize the months or days of the week – unless they happen to be the first word in a sentenance.
link to french.about.com
link to meta.wikimedia.org
link to dummies.com
So much for me! I’ve always though those as proper noun and used a capital letter. One more thing I’ve learned from your site 🙂
You have also to understand that shops are closing because, first vacations are good (and shop workers like vacanations like everybody 😉 ), second because as vacations are good, nobody is still in town at that time thus business is falling down, thus shops are taking a time off…
By the way, the fountains in Versailles are not working all together because it works like in the older time (you can’t modify ann historical monument in France), without electricity and thus you have to save the water!! Reserves are on the top of the building (link to youtube.com).
By the way, what about a race event in France? link to ironmanpaysdaix.com
no a/c? is that common practice in eu?
While not unheard of, a/c is not common in Europe. You’re also more likely to find them in offices and shops than in private homes.
It’s fun to read you comments to European way of life. Things that are verry verry normal for us, seem to suprise you a lot.
I’m Belgian, and we don’t have the 2.5 break during mid-day, but everything else is the same here. No A/C as “standard equipment” here either, and this year it is really really really hot, so we really mis it!
just reading through some of the Paris blogs and came across this one – the Boulanger you visit was the one I went to when visiting Paris in ’04! It wasn’t exactly our “local” – we were staying next to Gard du Nord, but damn they had some mighty fine pastries and sweets! My favourite was just a camambert baguette with whatever sweet took my fancy, and we would then take them to the park not far away by the river overlooking Notre Dame. I would be constantly pinching myself over how incredible Paris was, still my favourite city!
Funny, small world! Indeed, from Gare du Nord down there is a bit of a haul!
I was rooting for the apartment in Notre Dam. Does the ice cream shop still exist?
Also about the month long vacations that the french shops take…someone should come in and offer to sublease and sell cupcakes.
Yup, absolutely still exists. We visit it frequently. 😉
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