Remember when I told you that Paris was emptying of its inhabitants and stores were closing in celebration of the August holidays? Well, I found out where they've all gone: south. Taking my own abbreviated version of a French summer vacation in the south of France, I cannot believe how many people are down here with me. I've been on the coast a number of times before since moving to Paris, always to the same little town, and I've never seen crowds like this. I even came down here in early July - a great time for the beach! - and there weren't nearly as many people around as there are now. When it comes to vacationing in France, what a difference a month makes.
I always knew that the French vacationed in August, but I never really witnessed the event or understood what it truly meant. Beaches that used to have room to spare are packed. Traffic jams appear where there used to be no cars at all. There is a line at the boulangerie to get your morning croissant. Quiet cafés have turned into bustling hot spots. In short, the sleepy little beachside town I've come to know simply doesn't exist in August. Right now it's all vacationers all the time.
It's easy to think of the south of France as the capital of glam and glitz; a sort of playground for the rich and fabulous. This is only partially true. The town I'm in, Six-fours-les-plages, is about an hour's drive from St. Tropez, but it couldn't be further from it's flashy neighbor. No Jay-Z and Beyoncé sightings here; just young families, couples and the retirement crowd. Despite it's A-list image, much of the south really is just where normal French people (and Germans, Dutch, Belgians, Swiss and even some Italians) go to get away from it all...a lot of them..in August.