Sunday, May 12, 2013

Faire le Pont

Add to Google Reader or HomepageMay is filled with national and religious holidays in France. The month started with “Fête du Travail” (Labor Day) on May 1, followed by a national holiday on May 8, Ascension on May 9 and the Monday after Pentecost (May 20).

Last week, for instance, Wednesday was "Fête de la Victoire 1945"  followed immediately this year by Ascension Day. With back-to-back holidays in one week, the French have a tradition of adding to official holidays by what they call “Faire le pont” – or bridging over the remaining work day (Friday) and creating a three vacation-day week. Many of the shops and businesses were closed or on reduced hours. (Restaurants and tourist shops were open and filled with customers.)

We went to visit the lovely hill towns of Roussillon and Gordes on Wednesday only to discover that we were joining throngs of tourists – French and foreign – who were there to enjoy the long vacation week. On the way back to Vaison la Romaine, we passed roadways lined with parked cars as people were picnicking along the banks of rivers and streams. We also passed lines of bicyclists who were making their ways through the hills and mountains heading?? Everyone was on vacation!

Vaison la Romaine is a destination for many tourists and it was amazing to see how the village has come alive with people from all over walking through town, looking in shop windows (lèche-vitrines – literally: licking the shop windows), buying chocolate and gelato or sitting in the cafés enjoying a glass of wine or an espresso as they watched people go by. Vaison is a very different village from the cold, rainy days of February and March when people were outside only to complete their shopping needs and get out of the bad weather.

The population of Vaison la Romaine doubles in the summer and with the three-day holiday created by “faire le pont”, we got a little hint of how this town will look in July and August.