Welcome to Versailles, France, where the living is equally easy ever since its inhabitants have all fled the kings city, like they do every August. The reason is not, as one might think, some vesuvian-induced urge or other lurking catastrophe, but something of capital importance for the respectable middle and upper-class French: vacation!
"Les vacances" are an institution in here and it all rises far above its already famous reputation (notice that vacation in French is employed at plural only, probably suggesting the number, the length and the multiple activities one is supposed to do during that blessed time). And there's no joke about it: according to statistics reported by the most serious INSEE (the French national institute of statistics and economic studies - www.insee.fr), French aged 15 and more have spent in 2010 a whopping total of 197,5 million personal trips. You do the math, there are 53 million of them, of a total population of ~65 million. (Hint: about 3,7 trips/year in average per person, nearly half lasting more than 4 nights and, the most impressing thing, nearly 90% were spent in France. Someone said French nationalism?...)
When employing the magic word, first there is the mandatory attribute indissolubly attached to it (one *has* to go on vacation in August, everybody else does!), then there's the seriousness of planning (I've heard French friends planning their vacation many months in advance, some even plan for next year during their present journey) and, last but not least, the variety of destinations (not only they've seen every single corner of their country, but they aim to explore as many exotic countries as they possibly can. This, of course, includes the most exotic of them all: the Great Britain!).
Except tourist places, Versailles in the summer is peaceful: some disconcerted workers are stirring the dust in frustration, they have to finish the infrastructure repairs by the end of the month (before everyone gets back), trains have the summer schedule (there are fewer of them) - some train stations being downright closed in the Parisian region, due to renovations. Private owned shops have all closed their doors for the summer:
Even my local bio (organic) producer will stop coming to farmers markets because they're taking their summer vacation, to my despair - I have to find other source of fresh food (I might as well start studying gardening!) And today I was thrilled to notice that I wasn't the only lost soul in my building like I thought, someone had thrown their garbage in the collective bin before me. Hooray!!!
But let's not despair; I compiled (with the help of my coldest mind) a list of what to do in Versailles this August:
- plan your vacation for August 2013 - even if this year we'll get to assist to the Mayan end of the world, you'll die happily knowing you did your duty!
- begin a sports routine - Versailles is great for jogging, cycling and, my fav, the swimming pool (aquatic center) is open all summer. YAY!!!
- move in or out - you'll get free route, plenty of time and no curious neighbors. The only downside is that you'll have far fewer friends eager to help
- renovate your apartment - many people do it, there's no one to disturb with the unavoidable noise (well, except me)
- get to a doctor for a general checkup - the few doctors still in town will be more than happy to give you a lecture on what not to do and then you'll be more than happy to avoid the usual waiting lines. And yes: there are waiting lines even if you have an appointment!
- go eat at your favorite local bistro (or, if it's already closed, it’s a good opportunity to try a new one): you'll be all alone in there, therefore you'll receive 100% attention from the personnel
- start a blog on Versailles :)
Happy August vacation, everyone!
And you, where do you spend your summer vacation? Share your stories in the comments below