In North America, it’s “back to school.” That time of the year when classrooms fill up and families slip into familiar routines, or start new ones as the youngest step into kindergartens and the oldest fly the nest for college. In France, it’s la rentrée, and is not just about families and their children. Each September, almost the entire population faces their regular routines after a long holiday season.
Since many businesses close for the month of August and three-week holidays are taken for granted, September means Parisians are frantically mourning their fading tans as they get back into the swing of things. Stock that has been arriving slowly over the previous weeks has shop owners scrambling to get their newest collections out on the floor. Figs and wild mushrooms also begin to perfume the air at local markets, inspiring chefs to rewrite their menus to reflect on fall’s bounty. And, like Canada or the US, it is also back to school for the young ones.
Back to school is a unique shopping adventure in Paris. Monoprix stores are clogged with moms trying to decipher the lists of school supplies. Teachers are very specific with their demands. Even an elementary school teacher may ask children to bring simple lined paper, perforated, no hole for one subject, and intricately lined paper, folded with holes for another. They’ll be equally as specific about wanting ringed binders or binders with plastic sleeves, of course.
Starting in the second grade, children are expected to use a fountain pen. So naturally some teachers request blue ink, while others prefer black. Children beg for the smoother, more expensive Clairefontaine paper and dependable Lamy pens. Tantrums are thrown as pandemonium reigns the stationary supply aisles for an exhausting six days, purchasing all supplies before stores close the Saturday after the first day of school.
But la rentrée is not just about getting back to class. It is also about the beginning of “the season,” the time of year when everyone’s social calendars start to fill. For some that means rushing to sign up for a hobby class at the local City Hall. For others it’s booking season tickets for their favorite theaters. While still others receive a flood of invitations for Paris Fashion Week. And for everyone, it is already time to start making plans for the two-week Toussaints (All Saints) holidays. It is just six weeks away, because we never wait long for our vacations in Paris.
- Read one family’s experience with finding a nanny in Paris.
- Yvonne Hazleton has a poetic take on La Rentrée. Experience what it’s like to see Paris re-awaken through her eyes.
- While the warm weather continues, head to Créatures for outstanding views, cocktails and healthy food on the rooftop of Galeries Lafayette, Paris Haussmann. Read our interview with star chef Julien Sebbag and find out more.
Written by Sylvia Sabes for HIP Paris. Looking to travel? Check out Plum Guide and our Marketplace for fabulous vacation rentals in Paris, France or Italy. Looking to rent long or short term, or buy in France? Ask us! We can connect you to our trusted providers for amazing service and rates or click here. Looking to bring France home to you or to learn online or in person? Check out our marketplace shop and experiences.