August 19, 2010

the calm before the storm

August in Paris is very strange. Everything shuts down and Parisians call it quits for the month. It's been so calm and quiet all around the city...and empty! The usually crowded sidewalks are a sea of open space and I'm loving it. I can walk through the metro without getting smacked by peoples' bags and I'm not getting side checked by people rushing by me nearly as often. I can only imagine what September will bring when everyone comes back so I'm soaking up the silence while I can.

I still have been working, teaching English to busi
ness professionals, but even that has slowed down. I have two different types of students: one group tells me how great it is to be employed in France and they try to convince me to stay here where vacation time is abundant (doesn't take much convincing); the other group complains to me about not having enough vacation time. I have no sympathy for this group and my story about working and time off in America is starting to take on the form of "when I was your age, I walked 2 miles to school every day, up hill both ways...". So the ones that complain about getting only FIVE weeks of vacation get a little lecture from me. The truth is, the French are very lucky: 35 hour work weeks and a minimum of 5 weeks of vacation. Are you kidding me? And most people get additional weeks which accumulate from the times that - God forbid - they put in more than 35 hours/week. I would say, on average, people get about 7 weeks of vacation here. The extremely lucky ones get 8 or 9 weeks. My response to these people: "So basically you work a collective 3 months out of the year..." And so the August vacation is born. It's not just France, most Europeans take off a solid three weeks in August to go relax and drink wine in a different city. Must be nice!

While the Parisians are off gallivanting around the country and continent, I've been here at home. It's been nice, though. I've been roaming around Paris a little bit and mentally doing nothing because I know school is just a few short weeks away and that requires more brain power than I usually have. I made it to Paris Plages (translation: Paris Beaches) which is a strange urban attempt to bring the beach to Paris. It lasts about a month and they line the Seine river with sand and chairs and ice cream's fun until it gets really hot and you realize one essential thing that is missing: water. Nobody is about to (or is allowed to) jump into the Seine and that's the only body of water in the city. Here's a glimpse of the faux beach:

One of my favorite days was a couple of weeks ago when I had lunch with my 75 year old gal pal, Marie. We were talking during lunch and she was trying to explain to me this sculpture in a park nearby where she used to take her kids when they were little. So after lunch (and after wine and champagne) Marie strapped on her 2.5 inch wedge sandals and we walked to the park. And all around the park. It was a hike and I was tired when we finished! Here are a few of my favorite pictures I snapped with my phone:

The sculpture Marie was searching for. It's actually pretty huge - you used to be able
to go inside of it and climb stairs to the top.

A statue made of wood and a very thorough explanation from Marie on what she thought it represented

Marie's hiking shoes of choice

A garden we stumbled upon

Playing in the park

Paula: Oh no, a fence! We'll have to go back around.
Marie: We don't need to go back, we'll climb over and through. Follow me!