Among the many adjustments I have to make in my new French life are Sundays.
My first Sunday here I had all sorts of plans about going to get groceries, shampoo, maybe visit some shops in town, go to Ikea. Nope. I was shocked to be walking around a ghost town- shop windows had been locked up, nary a pedestrian to be seen in the normally bustling city-center.
Sundays, like most everywhere in Europe but especially in smallish towns like Mulhouse are completely shut down. You would think at least the big supermarket chains would be open- but nope. In fact, Ikea was slapped with a lawsuit a few years bear for half a million euros for being open on a Sunday. There was an unfortunate baker in Paris that likewise was fined for being open seven days a week. It was an “unfair advantage.” (Not to mention, of course, totally destroying the cultural fabric of the French way of life, obviously). It’s a crazy idea for Americans who believe that you are entitled to succeed as long as you are willing to work harder and longer. Not here. Here it is actually illegal.
There has been a debate in recent years to relax these trading laws but so far it’s eased only in certain tourist quarters. The French hold tight to their traditional ways.
So what’s a perpetually on-the-go gal going to do on a day where everything has stopped?
She will love it.
It only took a couple of Sundays of a vaguely panicky feeling of trappedness before I let go and realized- hey- there is something to be said for having a day that you aren’t required to rush around in a flurry of activity.
I actually like Slow Sundays now. I simply have to remember to adjust what day of the week I do certain tasks. When I got a stool I needed to assemble, I waited until Sunday to do it. I actually take Skype appointments with my people in the States; one Sunday I talked for five hours straight to various friends and family.
One thing that I would do in the States with a day off is read but I made a rule that I would only read books in French. It’s such an effort to do that (constantly flipping through a dictionary) that I don’t end up reading much here.
I remember to get produce at the marché on Saturday (my favorite thing to do so far in Mulhouse) and on Sundays I spend hours leisurely preparing a beautiful meal out of simple, fresh foods- like vegetable gratin or ratatouille, all seasonally grown on Alsatian farms. The types of recipes that need hours of patiently, lovingly chopping and slicing while I sip on a glass of Gewürztramniner, a popular Alsatian wine and nibble on Münster (not anything like the munster in America but a powerful pungent cheese that you pairs with the sweetness of the Gewürtz) and listen to my Spotify French playlist and talk to my friends through the magic of the Internet.
This morning I slept in until the bells in the cathedral lured me out bed. I sliced up some raisin-apple bread I picked up from the boulangerie the day before. I spread some locally made Mirabelle jam and mountain flower honey on it, made some coffee, turned on some nice music and let the day slowly unfold itself to me.