French word of the week: Le Longue Weekend (1/6/2022)

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With all the news in the world, I confess I did not have the stomach to send out a newsletter last week. Is it me or do some things just punch you in the gut more, as we get older?

In an effort to keep some semblance of normality, I can tell you about what’s been happening in this little corner of the Paris. I had an excuse to give myself some time off last week as it was a 4-day-weekend here in France. Which I will admit, kinda came out of nowhere.

Ok, it didn’t actually come out of nowhere, apparently it was marked on the government calendar. But since we just came off 2 weeks of school holidays in my last newsletter, at some point I figured we all have to get back to work!

The official jour ferié was on May 26th for Ascension, which is one of those religious holidays that Napoleon Bonaparte instituted at different points of the year to try to win public opinion. (Once you give a public holiday in France, don’t you try to take it away unless you don’t value your head!)

So anyway, there it was, another one of those May holidays that always falls on a Thursday. Then in 2015, the government went one step further and decided to make Friday a holiday as well for schools.

The official explanation is that since a lot of people skip school anyway and “faire le pont” (i.e. make a bridge), it is simpler to give kids the day off anyway. Yes, that is the official governmental explanation.

This of course leads to forgetful parents who still have to work, discovering this “special long weekend” at the last minute (when the 5-year-old announces it on Tuesday evening), and scrambling to decide whether to take the day off or arrange alternate childcare.

All of which probably contributed to that big debacle at the Champions league football final at Stade de France outside Paris this past Saturday. (Yes, I know this is seems like two completely unrelated topics, but stay with me here.)

In case you didn’t see the headlines dominating France at the moment, a petit recap: the Champions league final was supposed to be held this year in Russia. Except with the war in Ukraine, France offered at the end of February to hold it at the national stadium in Seine-Saint-Denis instead. (In the words of French football legend Thierry Henry on CBS Sports, “it’s not in Paris, ici c’est Seine-Saint-Denis. You don’t want to go to Seine-Saint-Denis”.)

Anyway, rather than a shining spectacle of peace, democracy, and fun, the ending result was this:

To be clear, it is amazing that no one was seriously injured. A giant cock-up boiling down to various factors:

  • there was a RATP strike on the day at the train RER B line that goes from central Paris (where the fanzones were for the pre-party) to the stadium.
  • stadium security lost control when checking tickets because of counterfeits,
  • and the French police got overwhelmed, bringing out the batons and tear gas.

Now, regardless of the behaviour of the fans, the fact of the matter is that the timing of the strike was known for weeks in advance, as were the photos of incoming counterfeit tickets on twitter.

So I would suspect, looking at the bigger picture and speculating a bit, that all of this was perhaps a shortage caused by the fact that the French were in long weekend-mode?

Because if you are planning to go on strike or planning a 4-day-long weekend, what better weekend than this one at the end of May? And once you have that day off that you booked months ago, I would guess you are rather reluctant to give it back, regardless of someone planting a last-minute Champions League final in your city.

Long time readers will remember that I have mentioned before the atrocious state of security at football games in France in general, which always looks quite scary. On Sunday, the very next day, there was another debacle at the junior Ligue 2 football game featuring St.Etienne – Auxerre, which made it all the way to the Washington Post:

This upcoming weekend is also a 3-day weekend because June 6th is Pentecost Monday and D-day. And no lessons learnt, the RATP is going on strike again for the France-Denmark football game at Stade de France this weekend.

Have I mentioned the 2024 Olympics in Paris is less than 2 years away? Someone remind me to book a holiday out of Paris during that!

In other news:

  • If you have not checked it out yet, the movie “The Takedown” (“Loin du Périph” in French) with famed French actor Omar Sy is now the most viewed French film on Netflix. (If you are interested, it features the same town Seine-Saint-Denis I mentioned above.)
  • Apparently in 1970, French people drank 120 litres of wine a year, now it is down to 40. (I shall sacrifice myself and have a glass of wine now.)
  • A young orca whale found himself stuck in the Seine river between Rouen and Le Havre. After several days where he did not manage to find his way back to the Atlantic ocean and sadly died.

And new in the blog:


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Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral: 27 Facts and History

Get the facts on the Cathedral Notre Dame de Paris on Ile de la Cité, and see how this grand old church has survived through history.

Beef Pot au Feu in Instant pot

Get the traditional French recipe for Beef Pot au feu in the Instant pot. With accompaniments, drink suggestions and more.

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