Friday, July 18, 2008
Les Grandes Vacances
OK, here it is—The vacation post.
It's July, and life is slowly seeping out of my suburban neighborhood. Not exactly a bubbling cauldron of activity at any time of the year, in July what little buzz there is fades out and an alarming silence sweeps through the streets. There are no kids screaming in the park, there are hardly any old ladies rolling their caddies down the sidewalk, and the stores on the one "busy" street are closing down one after an other. It's as if the entire neighborhood is entering into a state of deep hibernation. By August, all will be still and the urban pulse will have slowed to a couple of beats per minute.
It's peaceful here, I'll admit. It's peaceful knowing that you are still safe and sound in your apartment while almost all of your neighbors are stuck somewhere south on the autoroute in a horrific traffic jam. You could get rather smug about it, but you know that soon it will be your turn—soon you too will be battling overstuffed freeway on-ramps or fighting through the crowds at the train station. Despite the bother, you are kind of looking forward to it. Despite the illogic of everyone going on vacation at the same time, and the knowledge that there will be crowds in every sunny spot on the continent, and the firm conviction that we would all be better off if more people traveled off season, you don't like feeling left out of the party. You too want to be able to flaunt your tan in September at the rentrée (literally, re-entry), when everyone will be swapping vacation stories and moaning about going back to work. You too want to be part of the smiling hoard of vacationers invading normally tranquil places and wondering why there is so much noise. You too want to roast, at least for a little while, in the sun after endless months of clouds and rain.
I used to be convinced that my husband's desperate need to go to the family holiday cottage every year at the same time (August) was based on some deep-rooted insecurity or ancient childhood trauma. The idea of voluntarily spending time with one's parents and relatives over vacation seemed highly suspicious to me, particularly when it meant three weeks in an isolated house in the middle of the woods. That was before I had been seduced by the pure air, the relative calm, and the abundant supply of fabulous foodstuffs available in that particular corner of the southwest. For better or worse, I've adapted. This year, to make sure that I get my share of noise, pollution, and madness, I've tacked on a week in New York at the end of my trip. As any ex-New Yorker knows, ya gotta tank up every once in a while.
So this is a long way of saying that I've succumbed—you probably won't be hearing from me until September. Bonnes vacances—on se verra à la rentrée!