There are parts of the French lifestyle that feel timeless—celebrating major holidays, shopping at the market, taking national exams in high school… and yes, spending a Sunday at the beach. After a rainy day and a windy day, we got a sunny day. One out of three—not bad.
That Sunday, at 11:55 a.m., anxious customers were filling their cart, buying whatever was left at the local Super U. The aisles were packed but the shelves empty and I saw two old ladies fighting for the last piece of Comté cheese. Then we all lineup to pay, a painfully slow process since many people still insist on using either payment methods that are way too modern for Saint Michel’s tiny supermarket—“Non, désolée, the card must be inserted, there is no tap-and-go, monsieur”—either old-fashioned cheque that must be filled in by hand—“Is there a ’s’ at euro, Gérard?”
At 12:15 p.m., the last customer paid for his merguez sausages.
At 12:17 p.m., smoke begun to rise up in the air from BBQs in most backyards. Sunday lunch is a lengthy affair in most families, especially when on holidays.
I hurried to go buy baguettes during lunch hour so that I wouldn’t have to line up at the bakery, then we all went to the beach.
I walked along the waterfront. It was definitely 2017 but it could have been 2007, 1997, 1987… there were no smartphones, no brand-new cars, no drones (but kites!), no motorized gizmos (but trottinettes), old-fashioned waffles and butter cookies as snacks and made-in-France plastic toys.
I took Mark on the rocks I used to climb when I was his age. As the tide went up and the beach filled in, time paused for a few hours.