We are in the middle of les grandes vacances in France and it certainly shows, even in smaller towns rather than just Paris. Many shops are closed or not nearly as crowded as usual, most of the people wandering the streets have cameras around their necks, and I can always find a parking spot directly in front of my building. Some things haven’t changed – there are just as many loud scooters on the streets that drive me insane – but France in August is definitely my favorite time of the year. And every summer I’m reminded just how much French language and culture are inseparable by the fact that there are words for people who take their annual vacation in July, les juillettistes, or in August, les aoûtiens.
Most French people have 5 weeks of paid vacation per year, and some have even more time off with the inclusion of their RTTs (essentially, personal days) for those who work more than 35 hours per week. My fonctionnaire (civil servant) boyfriend has nine weeks off per year, all paid of course – and this is only his second year as a fonctionnaire. Even the education system makes sure there are 2 week vacations after every 6 weeks during the school year, which consequently means summer vacation is only 2 months instead of 3 like in the States, and hence why there are no real juinistes (people who take their vacation in June; very few people use this word and it’s not in the dictionary). Nevertheless, French law makes sure everyone gets plenty of vacation!
Regardless of whether you are a juillettiste or an aoûtien, there is yet another reason to spend your vacation in France: UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee has just inscribed a new cultural site in France on their World Heritage List. The episcopal city of Albi, located in the southwest near Toulouse, is the 31st World Heritage cultural site in mainland France and there are also natural sites on the islands of Corsica, La Réunion, and New Caledonia. Of course, you should visit countries to learn the language, meet the people, eat the food, etc. instead of just hopping from Heritage site to Heritage site, but the list is a nice way to get an overview of the history and culture of an area.