For reasons that totally escape my independent American way of thinking, French vacation rentals run Saturday to Saturday. From ski chalets to seaside villas, family apartment-hotels to luxury lodges, during peak holiday season, we are all expected to arrive and leave on the same day. There are, of course, a few exceptions. Some hotels are flexible, some property owners have a different agenda, but those places are a microscopic minority.
The result is Le Grand Depart, the first Saturday in August when everyone in France who is not adventurous enough to travel abroad or wealthy enough for a second home, takes off on holiday. It is sheer madness and Mr French absolutely insists on being part of the insanity.
Because another French tradition is going to the exact same place every year (another mind boggler for this curious soul), I have found a great place in Hossegor that accepts flexible dates. We could show up on a (gasp) Sunday! and they wouldn’t mind. But that would mean one day less on holiday. I once tried suggesting that we make that first day a stay-cation, enjoy Paris and then leave early the next day. The entire family stared at me in a mix of horror and disbelief at the blasphemous idea.
With approximate 1/3 of the country hitting the road on the exact same day, joined by the Dutch and Belgians seeking warmer climes, traffic flows like a dammed up river. Last year it took us 14 hours to complete a 7 hour journey. There are some fun aspects to the adventure. The highway rest stops become party zones with the leaseholders organizing games like archery lessons and zumba classes, to keep drivers alert and their kids exhausted after a pit stop. At toll booths, cheerful young students hand out travel kits full of treats and this is the one time of year I allow myself a travel sized can of sour cream onion Pringles.
Mr French has decided that this year’s departure time is 2am. He plans to come home from work at 4, pack the car, have a bite, grab 6 hours of sleep and then slip behind the wheel. This is a man who is used to getting off a plane from China at 5am and heading directly in to the office for a shower and a full days work. I hope he can handle it, because no matter how hard I try to be the perfect, chatty passenger, the vibrations of the car ride as white dashed lane dividers pass rhythmically before my eyes, invariably hypnotise me to sleep. I’m getting drowsy just thinking about it…
FindingNoon is officially on holiday. See you August 25th. Bises!