Episode 32 Vacation in France

Vacation in France in July and August

Saint Rémy de Provence
Saint Rémy de Provence

This week on Join Us in France we welcome Elyse back and talk about the many things that happen in France as soon as school vacations roll around. Every year it’s the same: most French people go into vacation mode and many things change all around the country. Does that change anything for visitors? Yes, it certainly does! To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, let us say that an ounce of vacation planning is worth a pound of cure. We touch on summer traffic jams, how French people return to family homes, the difficulties of finding a restaurant open on a Sunday night, and the general ambiance in various regions along French coasts, and much more. Enjoy the show!

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Show Notes

Nîmes in France
Nîmes, France

• French people take long vacations, at least those of us who are not self-employed.
• Everybody hits the road at the same time, massive traffic jams happen on black days France Traffic Report
• Vibrant tradition of going back to a family home during the summer.
• French people also like to rent apartments for their vacation
• Some go to “campgrounds” where they can rent a small bungalow and where the kids can enjoy camp activities.
• There are a lot of family vacation homes in France that are going to be rented out on AirB&B for instance.

Rue de l'Hôtel de ville, Nimes, France
Rue de l’Hôtel de ville, Nimes, France

• In France life slows down as soon as school is over early July and by early August.
• Associative life in France stops for the summer.
• Most French villages are not touristy and those places turn into ghost towns in the summer.
• Even in large cities, lots of businesses close in August.
• In Paris many of the stores and restaurants close in August. Not the largest ones, but family-owned small businesses do close in August.
• It’s hard to find a restaurant that’s open on a Sunday night in August.

Lunch on Bd Mirabeau, Saint-Rémy-de-Provence
Lunch on Bd Mirabeau, Saint-Rémy-de-Provence

• Generally speaking small French restaurants are closed on Sunday nights anyway, this is true all year.
• Laws in France dictate when stores can open, there are exceptions made for very touristy areas.
• In very touristy towns, stores close in January rather than August.
• On large boulevards in Paris nothing closes in August, but go 2 blocks away and everything is closed.
• French people love to visit Western States in the summer.
• Along the Atlantic coast there are a lot of posh places and in Brittany it’s like going to parts of New England.
• The Mediterranean between Montpelier and Spain is very blue collar as a vacation place. Then as you get closer to Italy it gets posh again. The Mediterranean is very crowded all summer long.

Place de l'Église, Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer
Place de l’Église, Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer

• This year the weather in France was not very good in July. Summers seem to start later. Annie predicts that September and October will be glorious as far as weather is concerned.
• In July and August you will have throngs of people waiting to get into museums in Paris and not one of them will be French. When it’s like that it’s really noisy and can be unbearable and sometimes it’s not an enjoyable experience.
• If you can avoid peak times in various venues you’ll be happier.
• Is summer the best time to come to France? It is if you don’t want to see Parisians, if you don’t mind that a lot of venues will be closed (especially in August).

Road Side Vendor near Arles
Road Side Vendor near Arles

• The opera, the ballet, and other major cultural centers will be closed in August. They do not put on major shows or productions during the summer.
• If you want to experience Paris the way French people experience Paris, come outside of July and August.
• Theater and Opera season begins mid-September, which is similar to what happens in the US.
• There are summer music festivals all over France all summer long. So if you want culture in France in the summer, you’ll have to go out of Paris and look for summer festivals all over the country.

Grande Rue Jean Jaurès, Aigues-Mortes
Grande Rue Jean Jaurès, Aigues-Mortes

• France is very rural overall. Paris is only 11 million, and within city center proper it’s only just over 3 million.
• Lots of French people vacation in France since there are so many different things to see here.
• French people don’t understand why Americans spend 2 days in Paris, 2 days in London and then 2 days in Rome. That seems crazy to us.
• If you’re only staying somewhere for 2 or 3 nights a hotel is probably a good choice, but if you stay longer maybe renting an apartment would be a better option.

Les Carrières de Lumières, Les Baux-de-Provence
Les Carrières de Lumières, Les Baux-de-Provence

• There are lots of school vacations during the school year in France: 2 weeks around Oct, 2 weeks at Christmas, 2 weeks in February and 2 weeks around April. If you come during school vacations, most venues are going to be busy. French School Vacation Calendar
• Air B&B: dealing with peak demand and collecting hotel taxes.
• Most visited country in the world is the USA, then it’s Spain, then Italy, then France. But Paris is the most visited city in the world.
• Hotel in Aigues-Mortes where the halls were beautiful but the beds were like sleeping on a trampoline.


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