Gold Medal Vacation

21 Aug

I don’t know how the rest of the world vacations except us Americans, but I would say the French get the gold medal in vacationing. First, they train all year by taking short trips to countryside manors to explore new wine, mountain chalets to go skiing, beachside bungalows to get out of the cold or simply to other French cities like Paris to visit friends. Then, when the big summer arrives they’re ready to make the leap of faith and actually leave France, but most hit the roads and explore other areas of France – mostly the south and west, close to the beach. The biggest decision in life to make is when to vacation, but most are brought up from childhood vacationing in the same month every year, or in my instance married into my vacation month. For example, July (juillet) vacation-goers are called “juilletistes” and those who vacation in August (août) are called “aoûtiens.”

Ever since full-time workers in France were first granted holiday entitlement in 1936, they have seen their two-week vacation allotment increase generously to five weeks. Most families opt to take that time off when their children are out of school. But instead of the mere stampede to the beach or lake that U.S. domestic vacationers might notice, here there is a mass exodus. Most businesses close and roads become predictably jammed around the beginning and middle of July and August.

As aoûtiens, we departed for our vacation to the south of Spain on August 1. We were graciously invited by some good friends to spend 13 days in a house on the beach where our biggest decision was what we were going to make for lunch and dinner, and of course what we were going to drink, but since our friends had more than two dozen cases of rosé wine shipped to the house from France that wasn’t really a question. We were initially 10 adults and six kids, so at times it was like a family friendly version of Paradise Hotel. We spent the days lying around the pool or taking the kids to the beach and of course planning and cooking what we (and the kids) were going to eat. Our biggest excursion was going to a market in a nearby town to pick up some fresh fish.

When my husband initially proposed this vacation I have to say I hesitated. I had seen pictures of the house, so I knew that it was going to be awesome, but did I really want to vacation with that many people and no less six kids. I also did a bit of research and found out that there was really nothing to do where we were going except lay on the beach. I need activities, at least a few, I thought. However, I gave in knowing that my husband needed a do-nothing vacay after a long year of hard work. So, off we went.

We took a train from Lyon to Geneva, Switzerland where we boarded a plane to Madrid and then on to our destination of Alicante. It was sort of one of those bad bar jokes when we boarded the plane in Geneva, I mean how do you greet the stewardess on the plane when you are coming from France, but are an American and in Switzerland, but boarding a plane to Spain – Hello, Bonjour, Hola…I had to laugh.

When we finally arrived to the house, all of my doubts subsided. I found my spot on a cozy couch overlooking the beach and settled in with a cold glass of rosé. Basically we spent the two weeks laying in the sun (I don’t think I’ve been this tan since the day I left Miami a year ago), playing with the kids (I brought some crafts for them to make friendship bracelets), cooking (I think my spinach and artichoke dip won the silver next to our friend’s mother’s paella which took the gold), drinking (we couldn’t resist making a good Miami mojito for everyone), watching the Olympics (how is parading your horse an Olympic sport?), and laughing (at each other and the kids).You can view all of the photos here.


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