It's official: August in Paris has arrived. Although it's not so much the actual date that gives it away as it is what's happening in city. Everywhere you look, shops are closing up or reducing their already French-reduced hours. Just the other day I tried to buy my favorite creamy cheese from my favorite local cheese shop only to be turned away on arrival by a shuttered store front. But don't blame the economy; these closings have nothing to do with lack of customers. August is the time that most of the French take their annual, long vacation, and if they own their own business, that business goes on vacation too. Buying a baguette for dinner just got a whole lot harder.
The fact that stores in France will actually close for the summer, sometimes for more than an entire month, can come as a shock to Americans. We live in the land of 24 hour everything. A land where you don't have to think about what day or time or month it is before you head out the door to do your shopping. If the owner of a family-owned business goes on vacation, they might just have their employees keep watch over things. But in France, it doesn't work like that. A vacation is a vacation, and since the employees themselves are entitled to abundant time off, they just shut the place down.
Now, a lot of Parisians won't notice the closing of their favorite salon or mini-mart. After all, they're on vacation too. But for those of us who stay behind, the neighborhood can start to feel like a ghost town in August. Sure, there are tons of tourists in the city, and the businesses that cater to them stay open this time of year. But if you live in an area far from the main attractions, your options for everything start to diminish. I spent a half an hour just walking around trying to find an open boulangerie the other day when usually there's one on every corner. I mean, I'm happy for the owners and employees who get to enjoy the lovely summer weather without going to work everyday. I'm happy they're getting to spend some quality time with their family or friends or even alone if that's what they prefer. And I hope they've escaped the city to greener pastures, maybe the beach or the mountains. In the meantime, I'll be here, gazing longingly at the fromagerie around the corner, counting down the days until I can once again indulge in my favorite creamy cheese.