Saturday, 19 February 2011

In the Wrong Zone

In France, there is a proper time and place for everything. If the time is February, the proper place to be is on the ski slopes. So, it being February and me being culturally well-adjusted, to the ski slopes I went.

To cater to this lemming-like behaviour, school holidays in France are organised so that different académies (school districts) go on holiday at different times, meaning that only 20 million people are likely to be stuck in traffic on any given Saturday in February. The académies are organised into “zones” A, B and C and those which make up A and B are nicely scattered around the country. Zone C, on the other hand, is comprised of Paris and the neigbouring académies of Versailles and Créteil (as well as Bordeaux), meaning that the whole of the Ile-de-France goes on holiday at the same time. The cynical explanation for this is that it means that the rest of the country doesn’t have to go on holiday with the Parisians and the result is that pretty alpine villages begin to resemble the corridors of the Paris metro.

At one point, I was waiting in a queue for a lift when a woman suddenly slid over the front of my skis to the small space in front of me. I was giving her the benefit of the doubt and assuming that she couldn’t help it until her husband followed suit. A sarcastic “Allez-y” popped out of my mouth before I could help it but Monsieur just glided serenely on after Madame. Later, I overtook them on the slopes and Monsieur suddenly sped up just to have the pleasure of passing me (on the inside, bien sûr). It could have been the périphérique but for one big difference: he did it with a beaming smile and such insouciance that I smiled back. Even Parisians have to relax a little bit on holiday.

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