Friday, February 18, 2011

ready, set, holidays!

School holidays are something taken very seriously in France and they happen every 6-8 weeks of full-time school. Aside from the two weeks at Christmas and the two months in the summer, they also get ten days at the end of October, two weeks at the end of February and two weeks in April. Not bad! And what do people do for their school holidays in France? Go away, of course! Where they go depends on the time of year: February is winter sport in the Alps, April might be the seaside and summer is usually the south. Wherever the destination, everybody seems to leave en masse the day after the last day of school and come back the day before school begins, to maximize the holiday time. For this reason, the school system has divided the school districts into three zones, with each zone going on holiday at different times so as to avoid the traffic jams on the highways (and in the train stations). Everyone receives a calendar like this to figure out their holidays.

There are traffic reports on the news, with pictures of the entire highway system sporting different colours to show the traffic jams throughout the whole country. Specific days also have colour codes (green, orange and red) so that people can plan their travel accordingly. I know that on the way home from our New Year's trip, we discovered it was an orange day when we had to stand in line for 45 minutes to get into the cafeteria at a rest stop (of course the traffic was heavy that day, too). The main toll highways have an excellent system of big rest stops every 20-50 km with gigantic cafeterias, shops and other amenities. During the summer holiday rush, emergency rest stops are set up along the smaller highways, in an effort to combat fatigue on the road, along with signs reminding that people that they should stop and rest every 2.5 hours.

So the February holidays are already under way for some zones and about to start in other zones. I don't teach that many classes in the school system, but the adults I teach have kids and they tend to stop their English classes so that they can go away. For me it means less work (less pay) and a bit more time to do other things.

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