Friday, 22 February 2008

A midi la France mange

All right, a bit of French culture today. This is l'Hôtel de Ville, Avignon's town hall. And the large pedestrian square in front is called place de l'Horloge. If you've been to Avignon you've been here. The main avenue, rue de la République, leads straight from the train station to this square and it's just a stone's throw from the Popes' Palace. This is the city's busiest square, yet it's 12:30 (check out the two clocks) and it's empty. Why? The French cultural exception: at noon, the French eat. Shops close, everything stops and the French go home for lunch. Not so true in Paris any more, but definitely still a reality in smaller towns. OK, that's what the locals do, but what about the tourists? You've got a point, this is their usual joint. Here where I stand, about seven or eight restaurants usually stretch their outdoor eating areas across the square. In summer the place is packed. But this is February, the dead season. This is when restauranteurs close shop to either go on holidays or refurbish the premises. Just before Easter the season will pick up again. But this is February, only the locals remain. And as the saying goes, at noon France eats.
Where do you usually have lunch ? If you eat lunch at all ?

Allez un peu de culture française aujourd'hui. Voici l'Hotel de Ville d'Avignon. La belle esplanade devant, c'est la place de l'Horloge. Si vous avez visité Avignon, vous êtes venu ici. La rue principale de la ville, la très commerçante rue de la République, y mène tout droit depuis la gare. Et le Palais des Papes est juste au coin de la rue. C'est la place la plus animée de la ville et pourtant elle est vide. Un coup d'oeil au cadran de l'horloge, vous aurez compris : tout le monde est rentré chez soi déjeuner. A Paris la vie rapide ne permet plus ça mais dans les petites villes c'est encore une réalité. Et les touristes ? Ah en effet, ils devraient être là. D'habitude, là où je me tiens, sept ou huit restaurants alignés offrent d'immenses terrasses pour déjeuner et l'été, c'est plein. Mais on est en février, la saison creuse. La plupart des restaurants sont fermés, les restaurateurs sont en vacances ou font des travaux. Un peu avant Pâques, la saison reprendra. Mais là, en février, et il ne reste que les locaux. Et à midi, la France mange.
Et vous, où déjeunez-vous d'habitude ?

21 comments:

Fardoise said...

Je ne dirai rien, promis, car vu la date j'aurais dû être sur la photo...

Hyde DP said...

good to see this on the portal and officially "in the fold" as it were.

Nathalie said...

Fardoise, si tu connais la date de cette photo, c'est que tu as repéré les bannières "Avignon Journée des nouveaux arrivants" de chaque côté du porche de la mairie. C'était un samedi il y trois semaines. Tu y étais ?

oldmanlincoln said...

A beautiful location and an interesting story about eating and taking a siesta.

julia said...

Something for the budget traveller to remember, there's hope yet...or can I really use up all that avro fuel to get there? you bet

Peter said...

A very good French habit, unfortunately a bit lost in bigger cities like Paris, but in the area where I live, most of the shops also close for lunch - fortunately not the restaurants! The ideal would then perhaps be a short siesta after the lunch?

I like so much to go out eating with friends for lunch - or dinner, but for many reasons (including budget) cannot be done every day! Have to prepare something simple for myself, exactly what I will do right now!

Sally said...

I usually eat with a few friends from work, either outside in a plaza where there's some tables and chairs set up - you can buy food or bring your own, or in one of the rooms at work.
Do kids generally go home from school for lunch as well? Do they have an afternoon session? Or do they start very early and finish early?
I trust by June the place has not become TOO crowded for the odd passing Australienne!

lumer said...

Merci pour la visite de l'Hotel de Ville d'Avignon, au moins les habitants sont cool, il faut bien prendre le temps de vivre. Amicalement et bon week-end

Marie-Noyale said...

Combien de fois,quand nous sommes en France,les enfants sont revenus tristes et bredouilles...
Sans la Baguette fraiche du midi..

parce que quand on vit en dehors de la France on oublie... que tout ferme apres 12h30!!!
Tout est question d'habitude,c'est comme la siesta Espagnole.. volets miclos... ca c'est plutot tentant!
Bon Week end,Nathalie.

Fénix - Bostonscapes said...

I wish that were the case here too... 24-hr service and global economy are such obnoxious equalizers, aren't they?

Boston too looks pretty empty this time of year, but we still get a lot of business travelers and some international tourism during the winter. (I will never understand why tourists would want to come here in winter! ;D)

claude said...

At home !
Elle est bien belle cette place mais rudement triste, J'e vois qu'il y en a quand qq uns et unes qui ne sont pas à table !

Technodoll said...

I do love huge imposing buildings like these, makes you wonder if the builders paused for lunch too ;-)

Dan said...

Wonderful looking building. I would like to take some time and explore it.

As for lunch. I eat lunch 2 - 3 times a week. Usually with some co-workers but sometimes I just need to take a break from the office so I bring a book, find a quiet little place and sort of withdraw into my book for a while.

Ever feel like that?

Rauf said...

very impressive structure Nathalie.
Though i eat just for survival, eating at home is always a pleaure, but i love to have a siesta after my lunch. Not lucky on all days.

Mélisse said...

Je ne déjeune pas, ou alors vite fait un taboulé au bureau...Tristoune c'est vrai mais je n'ai pas le temps. On fait quand même une pause café dans la cour avec les collègues ;-)(hé oui je travaille avec des fumeurs invétérés)

Kate said...

It's a lovely photo of a beautiful building. Lunch? Seems like the tradition in Avignon is highly civilized. It must be wonderful to pause and stop in the middle of the day. Because I usually eat a big breakfast, lunch is often very light, eaten at home.

Clueless in boston said...

Beautiful town hall. In Boston, the city hall is done in the "brutalist" style, which I classify as "ugly." The mayor even hinted he would sell it and the land at City Hall Plaza so it could be razed and the money used to build a new city hall. That plan got nowhere, but I thought it brilliant:)

I usually do lunch about 1:30 at my desk because I usually go out with my camera at "lunchtime."

Mme Benaut said...

Beautiful town hall, Nathalie. Lunch? That's something I associate with the 1980's, before the introduction of the FBT (fringe benefits tax). Nowadays, only the "fatcats" can afford to eat a restaurant lunch. I used to have a sandwich when I was working but these days, it is usually a piece of fruit - something that doesn't require me to stop whatever it is that I'm doing. M.B tends to eat breakfast - we both eat a little snack at about 5 pm to tide us through until dinner at 7.30 or 8pm.

Michel Benoit said...

C'est rarement aussi désert... !

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