Summer’s Lease Hath All Too Short a Date: La Rentrée

SW France summer market stall

Summer sight: the olive stall in our village’s Saturday market

Yesterday, the summer holidays ended in France as children went back to school, people packed away their holiday gear for another year and workers prepared themselves for the routine of métro, boulot, dodo (subway, work, sleep). The eight weeks or so that appeared invitingly long at the beginning of July raced past in reality. In fact, the signs of summer winding down had been apparent in our area for the previous fortnight.

Retour à la normale

In many ways, I prefer it here when life returns to normal after the summer festivities, while I also recognise that tourism is an important contributor to the local economy. I always feel, though, that holidaymakers see an idealised version of rural France. The markets are bustling and crammed with stalls, the sun shines (mostly), the restaurants are open and one is spoilt for choice for concerts, exhibitions and village fêtes. Wouldn’t it be nice to live here?

Villefranche- Thursday market

Thursday market at Villefranche de Rouergue

I’m not being scornful. The SF and I had exactly the same thoughts when we holidayed in France. What we didn’t realise is that someone flicks a switch on 1st September and daily life reverts to its normal rhythms.

Autumn is my favourite season, despite the fact that it’s going in the wrong direction, i.e. towards winter. Each season has its charms. The weather in September and October – even into November – is often glorious: hot without being blistering. You can work in the garden or take long walks without getting heatstroke. The countryside is ablaze with colour when the leaves turn. Nuts ripen, mushrooms appear (although we are hopeless at finding them) and food changes slowly from lighter summer dishes to more robust fare.

Summer’s last gasp

Speaking of weather, the SF is more than a little peeved that I haven’t reported his carefully-gathered statistics for a while. At the end of September, he likes to look back over the summer months (1st May to 30th September), so I will report on that later on.

In the meantime, the weather has been echoing the rentrée mood. Summer had its last gasp last week, when temperatures soared to 36C here. Our département was on alerte orange for canicule (heatwave).

Weather Oct

Parched landscape

Méteo France defines canicule as a period of intense heat during the day and at night, lasting for at least 72 hours. The temperature definitions for heatwave vary throughout France. Down here, a canicule is declared if the daytime temperatures exceed 35C and the night-time ones are not less than 21C.

It all ended on Wednesday night with a thunderstorm and quite a lot of much-needed rain. Our département has also been on drought alert. Since then, it’s been unseasonably cool. Last week, we had a fan going in our bedroom. This week, we’ve contemplated putting on the electric blanket.

But wouldn’t it be dull if every season were the same?

You might also like:

How to Tell La Rentree is Here
Autumn Colours
5 Reasons Why Autumn is the Best Season

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About nessafrance

My husband and I moved to an 18th-century farmhouse in SW France in 1997. I am fascinated by French history, rural traditions and customs and enjoy seeking out the reality behind the myths. I run my own copywriting business and write short stories and the occasional novel in my spare time. My husband appears here as the SF, which stands for Statistics Freak, owing to his penchant for recording numbers about everything.
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9 Responses to Summer’s Lease Hath All Too Short a Date: La Rentrée

  1. We always have our main holiday as the rentree arrives, fewer crowds and coincides with our wedding anniversary. We left home worrying about the garden surviving without water under the hot summer sun and came home to find it and our part of France in the grip of a chilly autumn. But I love this time of year for sunny days that you don’t have to hide indoors on and everywhere quieter, plus all my activities start up again. But it would be good if some of those cultural events were spread over a longer season. It goes from feast to famine before I feel I have made the most of them. Autumn equinox yesterday, enjoy!

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      We were also married in September. We went to Spain just over two weeks ago and were also concerned about the garden, so employed someone to come and water. When we arrived home, we realised that this hadn’t been necessary! Like you, I do wish that things didn’t stop quite so abruptly at the rentrée, but I must admit that I love this time of year.

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  2. We’re gradually closing down here too. The summer visitors are saying their goodbyes and going home; the lake was deserted this week and the signs of winter prep. are appearing – log deliveries, shutter renewal, gutter clearing. Like you I prefer the quieter seasons – autumn and then spring. Last village BBQ tonight and instead of shorts and a Tshirt I think it’ll be jeans and something a bit more substantial!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Osyth says:

    In Cantal, I feel exactly the same as you … the tourists arrive and so do all the extra market stalls and the fêtes and the bars and restaurants work 24/7. But it is only for that brief 2 month period. The rest of the time it is quite different and the summer is not a true reflection of the département at all. But here in Grenoble it has been the opposite. It is not a summer holiday destination and it is a very academic city so with the students all gone and most people vacating the city which gets insufferably hot much of the time I had a glorious quiet time. certainly, some of the restos and bars were shut but a smattering remain open, the market stalls are thinner on the ground but the growers still came out in force many days a week and I was amongst locals. Not foreign students on their Erasmus year or people enroule to the alps to ski and board and I loved it. So my heart is upside down this year – la rentrée that I welcome in Cantal is tinged with a little regret here on the East Side. All good fun, all interesting 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      I don’t know Grenoble at all, but I imagine that a university city has different rhythms from towns that don’t have a university. And they are the reverse of what we see down here, as you say. I am glad to get back to normal, while regretting in some ways the disappearance of all the cultural and social events that happen here in the summer.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Osyth says:

        We are twinned with Oxford which feels somewhat familiar! Time to hunker down for Autumn … I share your love of it. Certainly my favourite among four favourite seasons!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. amelie88 says:

    It’s been unseasonably cold here this past week here in New York too. We just had our Labor Day Weekend (first Monday in September we have off which is basically the US version of La Fête du Travail in May for France) and it always signals the unofficial end of summer with back to school/back to work. I’m not sure if it’s because of the cold front maybe caused by remnants of Hurricane Harvey in Texas but I barely used my AC unit this summer at all (which is just as well since it causes our electricity bill to go up), we haven’t had really any heat waves this summer it’s been pretty cool overall. I’m really hoping that doesn’t mean we’ll have a brutal winter full of snowstorms.

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      The weather seems to be all over the place. Despite the fact that Méteo France says ours is the 2nd hottest summer since 1900, we’ve had some chilly spells within that. What does seem to change is that you can go from very hot to chilly, or vice versa, in a short space of time. There is no longer anything in between.

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