If you’re in Paris in early September, you’ll notice all sorts of signs proclaiming C’est la Rentrée! ‘The return’ refers to the start of a new school year — many students have had two months off by now — as well as the getting back to work for Parisians who took off much of August.
Holidaymakers in Paris will also feel the renewed energy in the streets. Family-run businesses that hung up the ‘Gone Surfing’ sign in early August — such as Berthillon on the Île Saint-Louis — roll up their shutters once more. Waiters and bus drivers are back from their country and coastal getaways, refreshed and jovial. Parisiennes have slipped out of their summer dresses, in favour of chic office-appropriate separates, accessorised by new-season coats and bags. Parents walk or wheel their button-cute kids to the local school.
La Rentrée is more than a time of year, it’s a much loved tradition in a country that celebrates the rhythms of life, from the annual to the seasonal, and even the daily.
You can see this in the way the French shop at the markets, swooning over the punnets of strawberries that signal spring has come, or the sweet Mirabelle plums of early autumn, or the cheery clementines that make a grey winter that bit more bearable.
If you don’t live in Paris, this is something you can still take away from France: the living in the moment, the celebrating what each season, each day, has to offer.
You can also profit from new-season programming at the Palais Garnier (above) and the Opéra Bastille. And new-season shopping, of course!
You’ll be tempted to buy yourself a trench coat, too, and generally update your look for the new season — Sézane is always an ideal go-to if you want a style makeover à la parisienne.
La Rentrée is also a great time to shop for stationery, as the stores are brimful with new designs that pretty up school and office desks alike. Try these five addresses:
- Papier Tigre: 5, Rue des Filles du Calvaire 75003
- Muji: 1, Porte Pont Neuf, Forum les Halles 75001
- Lavrut: 52 Passage Choiseul 75002
- Calligrane: 6, Rue de Pont Louis-Philippe 75004
- Papeteries Gaubert: 28 Place Dauphine 75001
While you’re there, make sure you buy yourself a blank notebook to devote to your grand plans and ideas; look for a Moleskin or any design that captures your imagination. Then make your way to a favourite café, sit down en terrasse, while the weather still permits, and get to work on your new business plan, your book, or just a few to-do lists.
It might be the time for new beginnings for the French, it being the start of their school and work year, but a holiday is also the perfect moment to re-assess your life. It’s a time-out from your daily grind, which allows you to see the bigger picture. And when you’re in Paris, you can’t help but be inspired to strive for more, as this is a culture that so beautifully teaches us the meaning of a life well lived.