May Holidays in France


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Fondation Cartier in ‘Spring’ (Actually I took this photo in February 2008 during our ‘faux spring’)

Hello May, good riddance April.

Forget all you’ve heard about April in Paris – come to Paris in May. For the past twenty years, we’ve been arriving in Paris with high hopes for balmy days enjoying cheese and wine at outdoor cafes – but don’t place any bets on exceptionally sunny days in April – April Fool’s Day lasts for the entire month of April – especially this year (2008). We had snowfall in Paris, just in time for the Paris Marathon.

May usually tends to be a better mix between sun-drenched afternoons interspersed with showers. Never assume that you’ll hit it perfectly and get three straight days of sun – even in May.

Essential tips for the month of May in Paris or France:
May is a month chock full of holidays.

May 1st or May Day is European Labor Day. This is a public holiday. All banks and government buildings will be closed on May 1st. Because this year’s holiday falls on a Thursday, the majority of Parisians have already left town and they’ll return on Sunday night.

May 8th – Victory Day. Commemoration of the end of World War II. Towns and villages throughout France will place flowers on the graves of World War II soldiers.

Ascension Thursday – Religious holiday which falls on the Thursday following Easter Sunday by 40 Days (This year’s Ascension Thursday falls on May 1st) so sadly, French citizens lose a holiday in May. But not to worry – there’s also –

Pentecoste
– Religious holiday which falls this year on May 10, and May 11, followed by Whit Monday on May 12th.

(This year, 2008, Pentecoste Weekend falls smack dab on the Saint Glace (which is traditionally cold, wet and miserable) Smart gardeners never plant their window boxes before May 15th for this reason). The Saint Glace is by no means an observed holiday in France – only be gardeners.

May 31st – an American holiday Memorial Day – the reason I mention Memorial Day is simply because if you’re an American in Paris or Normandy, you may want to participate in some of the events, especially at the American Cemetery near Omaha Beach. In Paris, the Picpus Cemetery is sometimes open for special commemorative services (this is where the Marquis de Lafayette is buried). The American flag continued to fly at this cemetery even during German occupation.

Only May 1 and May 8th are public holidays, but businesses have the option of closing for the religious holidays as well. As a visitor to Paris, you’ll find that most restaurants do their most brisk business on these days – and will remain open. However, some smaller boutiques may choose to close for these long weekends, knowing that their regular customers will be out of town.

May weekends, particularly around May Day and the Pentecoste, can be a good time to keep on the look-out for garage sales, i.e. ‘vides-grenier’ or ‘brocante’, a smaller version of the flea market, or marche aux puces. You’ll often find special weekend events during the month of May in some of Paris’s squares – for example Place St. Sulpice.

Traffic

Be sure to checkout www.mappy.fr for current traffic reports.
The heaviest traffic will be found on the major arteries heading either south from Paris to Lyon or west toward the Normandy and Brittany beaches.
The sunnier the weather, the more likely you’ll end up snarled in traffic jams.
Be sure to book train tickets well in advance for these holiday weekends or avoid the weekends altogether.

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If you’re planning a day trip outside of Paris, stay in Paris for the holiday weekend and save your day trip for a Tuesday or Wednesday.

Avoiding school vacation crowds

France has tried to alleviate school vacation traffic by breaking down the school vacation days into separate geographic zones. Here is a sample listing of the vacation dates for various school zones for the 2008 calendar year. (Remember that French dates are listed as Day/Month/Year):
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French school holidays in Zone A

Zone A covers:

* Auvergne (Clermont-Ferrand)
* Brittany (Rennes)
* Languedoc-Roussillon (Montpellier)
* Lorraine (Nancy / Metz)
* Lower Normandy (Caen)
* Midi-Pyrenees (Toulouse)
* Pays de la Loire (Nantes)
* Rhone-Alpes (Lyon / Grenoble)

2008 holidays

* 16/02/08 to 02/03/08 – Winter holiday
* 12/04/08 to 27/04/08 – Spring holiday
* 03/07/08 to 01/09/08 – Summer holiday
* 25/10/08 to 05/11/08 – Toussaint holiday (All Saints) – Autumn holiday
* 20/12/08 – 04/01/09 – Christmas holiday

2009 holidays

* 07/02/09 to 22/02/09 – Winter holiday
* 04/04/09 to 19/04/09 – Spring holiday
* 02/07/09 to 01/09/09 – Summer holiday
* 24/10/09 to 04/11/09 – Toussaint holiday (All Saints) – Autumn holiday
* 19/12/09 – 03/01/10 – Christmas holiday

French school holidays in Zone B

Zone B covers:

* Alsace (Strasbourg)
* Burgundy (Dijon)
* Centre (Orléans / Tours)
* Champagne-Ardenne (Reims)
* Franche-Comté (Besançon)
* Limousin (Limoges)
* Nord-Pas-de-Calais (Lille)
* Picardy (Amiens)
* Poitou-Charentes (Poitiers)
* Provence Cote d’Azur (Aix-Marseille / Nice)
* Upper Normandy (Rouen)

2008 holidays

* 09/02/08 to 24/02/08 – Winter holiday
* 05/04/08 to 20/04/08 – Spring holiday
* 03/07/08 to 01/09/08 – Summer holiday
* 25/10/08 to 05/11/08 – Toussaint holiday (All Saints) – Autumn holiday
* 20/12/08 – 04/01/09 – Christmas holiday

2009 holidays

* 21/02/09 to 08/03/09 – Winter holiday
* 18/04/09 to 03/05/09 – Spring holiday
* 02/07/09 to 01/09/09 – Summer holiday
* 24/10/09 to 04/11/09 – Toussaint holiday (All Saints) – Autumn holiday
* 19/12/09 – 03/01/10 – Christmas holiday

French school holidays in Zone C

Zone C covers:

* Aquitaine (Bordeaux)
* Paris Ile-de-France (Créteil / Paris / Versailles)

2008 holidays

* 23/02/08 to 09/03/08 – Winter holiday
* 19/04/08 to 04/05/08 – Spring holiday
* 03/07/08 to 01/09/08 – Summer holiday
* 25/10/08 to 05/11/08 – Toussaint holiday (All Saints) – Autumn holiday
* 20/12/08 – 04/01/09 – Christmas holiday

Remember when you’re booking round-trip airfare that rates and availability may be affected by school holidays.

Here is the complete listing of French holidays for 2008:

French public holidays / national holidays in 2008

* Tuesday 1 January – New Year’s Day (Jour de l’An).
* Sunday 23 March – Easter (Pâques).
* Monday 24 March – Easter Monday (Lundi de Pâques).
* Thursday 1 May – Labour Day (Fête du Travail) and Ascension Day (Ascension catholique).
* Thursday 8 May – VE Day – WWII Victory Day (Fête de la Victoire 1945).
* Sunday 11 May – Whit Sunday (Pentecôte).
* Monday 12 May – Whit Sunday (Lundi de Pentecôte).
* Monday 14 July – Bastille Day (Fête nationale).
* Friday 15 August – Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Assomption).
* Saturday 1 November – All Saints’ Day (Toussaint).
* Tuesday 11 November – Armistice Day (World War I Victory Day)
* Thursday 25 December – Christmas Day