Le Rhythme de la France

Most places in the world have a rhythm all their own. Perhaps it's because my adult years have been spent in France, but here (especially in Paris) and especially now that I am spending my second summer en ville, I truly notice a very distinct rhythm that creates the heartbeat of ce pays.

Life starts with La Rentrée when children go back to school and adults go back to work. Everyone is tanned and well-dressed (from les soldes- sales!), nostalgic for les vacances but motivated for a fresh new start. The metro is full, the streets are bustling and the city buzzes with energy.

Soon there is a chill in the air, butternut squash and citrouille start popping up in the open-air marchés and women begin to wear their go-with-everything trench coats.

Days get shorter, trench coats turn into les manteaux d'hiver, scarves begin to make their appearance and finally foie gras and champagne are being sold en masse in the specialty boutiques for Noël. Finally, the mayor decorates the city with twinkling lights and the shop keepers compete for the fanciest vitrine.  The smell of roasting marrons fills the air...

After the holiday craze come the first of two yearly soldes. Les français et surtout les françaises flock to Paris for the best stores, the biggest selections and the most exasperating shopping experiences of their lives. Only the truly motivated (or truly crazy!) tempt the ginormous Galeries Lafayette and Printemps.

A mild depression takes over the country as everyone waits for winter to be over and for spring to shine a little light over l'Hexagon. Frown lines are de rigeur. Getting out of bed when it's still dark in the morning is pure torture.

Finally! Boots are no longer a necessity and the terraces and streets are packed at the first sign of sunlight!  Le bonheur est de retour.  No one even cares that they can hardly move on the rue des Francs Bourgeois because the entire city has come out of its cave at exactly the same time.

Students cram into libraries and study for leurs examens. Office folk work late in preparation for les vacances. Everyone wants to know where everyone else will be spending their summer. Et toi, tu vas passer les vacances où? The second round of sales is in full force and les françaises cram into tiny, sweaty dressing rooms, determined to faire une affaire.

And then ladies and gents, mesdames et messieurs, the moment they've all been waiting for...les vacances. Parisians clear out of the city and head south, tourists land at Charles de Gaulle airport and parking suddenly becomes available again. The city is relaxed, France is happy.  On the télévision they obsess about la météo, how hot it will be aujourd'hui, demain and the day after demain. Picnics abound on the Champs de Mars and La Place des Vosges, les glaces drip off their cones, Paris builds a beach right along la Seine for those unfortunate few who cannot leave town.

And then, like clockwork, la saison estivale comes to a close, the children shop for their new trousse, the cherished French pencil bag, and sweaters start to fill the rayons at Monoprix.  Everyone starts to prepare mentally and fashionably for la rentrée...

I can feel La Rentrée on the horizon, but until then, I'm quite enjoying my quiet walks home, the warm, cheery terraces full of carefree vacationers and my unfashionable summer dresses...

Paris Plage

Check out a book and relax by the Seine

Les vacances, right in the heart of Paris...

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