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“Hate” is Too Strong a Word for “La Rentrée”

“Hate” might be too strong a word for how I feel about “La Rentrée,” so instead, let’s just say I’m “not very fond of it.”

“La Rentrée” is the real “new year” for the French. It’s when everyone returns from his or her month-long vacations to go back to work, back to school and back to normal life, whatever that might be. For one month, there is no one on the streets, no doggy poop to step over, no parking tickets on the cars, no cars on the streets, no open bakeries, no Parisians…just plenty of tourists and plenty of solitude. Then within a few days, everything changes.

In the blink of the proverbial eye, the Parisians return to their beloved city and have one week to catch up for the one month they lost. By next Monday, there will be no signs of summer, except for the women who are hell bent on showing off their tans by dressing scantily even if it’s cold and they are freezing (I am guilty of this). Even the weather seems to know it’s La Rentrée, although the summer in Paris is never in the summer (our warmest days seem to arrive in mid March — go figure).

29-8-12 James QuinMark Twain’s remark about San Francisco always comes to mind: “The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco” (this quote has never been verified as authentic!)…but another one by actor James Quin nailed it when someone asked him about Paris, “Did you ever see such a winter in all your life before?” “Yes,” said he, “Last summer.”

Nonetheless, this week there are more people on the streets, more doggy poop to step over, more parking tickets on the cars, more cars on the streets, more open bakeries and more Parisians…but still plenty of tourists (of the older kind) and a whole lot less solitude. Catch-up is killer. Everything that didn’t get accomplished in the last month must be done this week. All those bills that piled up must get paid. All those friends you haven’t seen must get scheduled into your social life. All those exhibits you didn’t see have to get seen. All those emails that added up have to be answered. Yikes!

29-8-12 MonoprixNext Tuesday I celebrate my 18th year in Paris. When we arrived that fateful September 4th during La Rentrée, our daughter started school just a few days later. That day she was given a long list of things she needed to bring with her THE NEXT DAY. She was just one of many thousands of kids who were given the same task. The “papeteries” (stationery shops) and the stationery departments in the “Monoprix” stores were swamped with parents holding their lists and filling their baskets. It was nuts, not to mention expensive! (Paper products are some of the things you want to bring with you to France from the U.S. where they are much less expensive!)

There ARE some good things that come along with La Rentrée, so I really shouldn’t be quite so ‘unfond’ of it. Friends are back. New exhibitions open. It’s seasonably appropriate to wear sweaters. Newly renovated shops and restaurants reopen.

And best of all, you can actually get things accomplished.

A la prochaine…

adrian straight hairAdrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris

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