The last weekend of July is a time of massive traffic congestion, caused by les juilletistes – the people who go on holiday in July – on their way home, and les aoûtiens – the August holidaymakers – setting out for their hols. On Friday 28 July French TV channel TF1 showed a map with the worst-affected roads marked in orange, red and black, with black predominating.I found an interesting English piece here.
When you are leaving is almost as vital as where you are going. And as with any question of faith, there are different schools of belief. The two main camps are those who go away in July – les Juilletistes – and those who wait until August – les Aoûtiens.
What about June and September? Well, as in the UK, French families with school-age children are tied to les vacances scolaires – easy money for the travel industry. John and I watch the bottlenecks and frustrations on TF1 with a touch of nostalgia. In our day we had no trouble convincing head teachers that a trip to France in term time would do our children no harm. If we tried it today we would face a fine.
Meanwhile, About-France.com offers a comprehensive year planner to enable you to avoid the crowds. Check it out for everything from garden festivals to free late-night museum entry, but especially peak holiday dates. Click on avoid traffic for a comprehensive guide to driving in France. I wish it had been available in our glory days, when the Channel Tunnel was just wishful thinking.
For many years we frequented the Thomé de Gamond restaurant on the cliff top at Cap Blanc-Nez. Along with seafood platters the size of dustbin lids, it featured a museum in the basement, devoted to Channel crossing in general and Thomé de Gamond in particular.
You can read more about early plans for a Channel Tunnel here. My favourite illustration shows the tunnel lit by chandeliers, with a coach and horses driving through.
The tourist office in Lormes is promising many local activities in August, notably the Comice Agricole de Lormes on August 5 and 6, with decorated floats, a ploughing contest, a free concert and much more. Their 80s disco on the Saturday night coincides with the fireworks at Dun-les-Places. Nobody is ubiquitous: it’s a difficult choice. The August/September issue of Le Criquet, our monthly free magazine, promotes scores of events, from vide-greniers through concerts to displays of vintage cars.
In my July effusion I wrote about the transformation of the upper floor of Charity Cottage. Recently our son and his wife came from California for a visit. Their parting gift to us was their adaptation of the upper floor as a work station.
The low ceilings are no problem in such circumstances. We are also considering installing a bed. Overnight visitors will, however, need to choose between going up and down the external staircase to get to the loo in the cottage and peeing in a bucket.
We are taking bookings from September.