Thursday, August 02, 2007

Holiday



The question I have to ask myself is: Am I a juillettiste or an aoûtienne? Hmmnn. I think I’m probably a bit of both …and no, I’m not talking politics or being rude. I’m talking about holidays.

You’d think that with all the days off they have the French wouldn’t need five weeks paid holidays a year, but it seems they do. By law, they are not allowed to take less than a fortnight at a time or more than a month and in any case, they must take their summer holidays between the 1st May (itself a day off) and the 31st October. Most of the time, it’s the boss who decides and many choose to close down their businesses for a month, either in July or August - hence the name juillettistes for those who holiday during the month of July and aoûtiens for those who choose August. The result can be a little disconcerting as you can wake up one morning to discover that not only is your familiar home town crawling with foreigners pestering you for directions but also you can’t find a single newsagent’s that’s open.

Until the beginning of the 20th century, tourism was reserved for the wealthy upper classes. The first hotels appeared in France in the 1760s and Stendhal wrote his Mémoires d'un touriste in 1838. Although Grenoble was Stendhal's home town, he hated it and spent a great deal of his time travelling in Italy before eventually settling there and having lots of love affairs with Italian women - in fact, he probably set the fashion for holiday romances. Stendhal would have been dumbfounded to discover that the first syndicat d'initiative - or tourist information office - was established right here in Grenoble, but he would never know because this happened in 1889, almost fifty years after his death. In 1900, the first Michelin Guide was published, aimed at helping wealthy, gastronomically orientated individuals to choose restaurants while travelling - as opposed to taking their own sandwiches and a thermos flask.

The 19th century also saw the first colonies de vacances or holiday camps. These were initially set up for poor, malnourished city children who never got the chance to go on holiday and benefit from the country air. Today, nearly one and a half million perfectly adequately nourished children go on these camps every summer. They do all sorts of interesting activities like windsurfing, horse riding or rock climbing that their mothers haven't got the energy to take them to at home and they stay at the camp for up to three weeks. I send my children every year and look forward to it immensely...

From 1936 onwards, there was a veritable explosion of mass tourism due to the increase in leisure time and the institution of paid holidays for workers. Today, sixty-two percent of the French go away on holiday every year. Increasingly, these are activity holidays – they go hand gliding, canyoning, hiking… not my idea of a relaxing break but then I need to summon all my energy just to turn over on my beach towel. Eleven million French tourists go abroad every year – presumably to escape the hordes of incoming foreigners complaining about the food, the water and the loos. Spain, Portugal, Italy, Germany, Austria, Tunisia, Morocco and the United Kingdom seem to be their favourite destinations and they are more likely than the British to be able (and willing) to speak a foreign language. This is normal because not everybody speaks French whereas most people speak English – at least, they ought to…

17 comments:

sablonneuse said...

Most interesting and informative as usual. Yes, I find it strange that 'everything closes' for a couple of weeks or more. My parents used to run a shop and when they went on holiday someone else (usually muggins me) used to hold the fort. They wouldn't dream of closing.

Minter said...

Since our children are at an American school, our holiday schedule is a little off kilter, allowing us to leave a week earlier... so, this year we were Junistes (although we also took first week of July). In general, we would be confirmed Juillistes. Our kids have become avid colonistes des vacances... but they learn some foul language en route.

As usual, great post.

Mountain Dweller said...

I can't help thinking how lucky we are in France with five weeks paid leave. My sister lives in the States and she only gets one...

Sarah said...

The public sector get more holiday, MD. It's the private sector which is so unbelievably stingy with holiday time.

Mind you, in France when you start a new job, you get no holiday in the first year at all. How bad is THAT?!

Roads said...

We seem to become more and more continental in our holiday moods here, too.

A colleague explained to me recently that nowadays you can forget about business in London at this time of year.

'The problem is simple,' he said. 'Most people seem to forget even their own name during August.'

Time for the beach, I think.

Gigi said...

Thanks for your comments, everybody. I must say, I just live for the holidays. This is the main reason I work in education - for the holidays. But please don't tell anyone that - it's not very professional, is it??

Tinsie said...

Great post. Very topical too :-) I'm an aoûtienne by necessity, although I think I'd prefer to be a juillettiste, as then I'd have the whole of August to enjoy after my holiday, rather than going straight into winter. Oh well.

Is the camp site photo yours? Could I borrow to use in my blog for my post about camping? I can't find a suitable photo anywhere!!

Tinsie said...

I used to work in education too, and loved the long holidays. Sadly, I sold my soul to the corporate world and now all I get in the summer is a fortnight (if I'm lucky).

Gigi said...

Tinsie - of course you can use the photo :-)

Alan said...

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Alan

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jerrine said...

Holidays can also be enjoyed at the Hammamet yasmine, it is a place where you can enjoy sun's view over the marina with its spectacular luxury yachts, or wander through the market stalls at the walled medina.
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Holiday in India said...

Nice post, blog is interesting one really. Keep posting :)

Anonymous said...

you are an anglophone descriptivist. Congratulations, Miss Ignorant.

Anonymous said...

geeeeze, my mistake,
prescriptivist!

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Julia said...
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