Faire le pont

pont-du-gard-bridge-franceThe French have a sparkle in their eye and a spring in their step these days. It often occurs in the month of May when the warm weather returns along with a month of long weekends.

Leave it to the French to coin a phrase for the act of bridging between a holiday and a weekend. ‘Faire le pont’, literally ‘to make the bridge’, means to take an extra day off in order to extend your weekend into a mini-holiday. When two holidays fall close together, some lucky ducks will take an extra day or two and offer themselves a full week. This we call a viaduct.

Given the vagaries of the calendar, there are fat and lean years – when holidays fall on a weekend, you lose. There are no comp days.

This year in France we have been especially gatés, with the 1st and 8th of May falling on Friday. Now, with two long weekends under our belts, we are off to enjoy ‘le pont de l’Ascension.’ This holiday always falls on a Thursday, and many companies give their employees the Friday off as well. Those who don’t will allow people to add in a ‘RTT’ (Réduction du temps de travail) day – a work time reduction scheme the powers-that-be developed when a 35-hour week was introduced some years ago.

Some of my fondest memories of raising a family in France involved taking off for that 4-day weekend. By the time I found work in a company big enough to give me the extra day off, the kids were old enough to travel well (and young enough to still want to.) We would pile into the car and head south to the sea. It was like a sneak preview of the summer holidays that lay ahead.

Bouchon LyonOf course, what we had to go through to get there and back was also memorable: les bouchons. At best, traffic was like an accordion between Lyon and Valence. At worst, we would spend hours stuck in the car.

The beauty of Ascension weekend is that in the offing there is still an extra bonus: La Pentecôte.The Pentecost holiday always falls on a Monday so it will only be a three-day weekend.

*Sigh*

Now I find it difficult taking any long weekends in May as I’m self employed. But I’ll make an exception for Pont de l’Ascension and bridge with the best of ‘em.

Bon weekend à tous!

15 thoughts on “Faire le pont

  1. I find the differences in public holidays across the world quite fascinating …. I am still learning them in France and of course with my hub working in the US and three daughters in England and the fourth in Malaysia I get super-confused as to who is working when and where!

    1. I know what you mean, Osyth – with clients in Switzerland, Germany and France, sometimes I have to check and see if I’m supposed to be working or not! Malaysia certainly adds an interesting note to keep track of. The thing I like about Ascension weekend is that, at least in the EU, just about everybody is off (except our friends in the UK!). Bonne fête!

  2. I miss these French May long weekends…not much work done in May and it was always our most expensive month because we did 3 to 4 trips in that month instead of the usual 2…but we loved it. Here in Canada, we are getting ready for our first long weekend of the summer, Victoria Day or Jour des Patriotes in Québec. The roads will be busy…

    1. As much as I complain about so many holidays and the inefficiency of the French economy in May, I must admit I’d miss this holiday atmosphere too! Funny how they managed to adapt Victoria Day to a Patriotes day for ‘la belle province.’ I must admit get confused now between the Canadian, US and UK May long weekends which are all around the same time but called something different. Enjoy your long weekend!

  3. I love the clever use of language for the holiday terms, Mel. Growing up and while in school, May was probably one of the most exciting months, as although we had only one true holiday where everyone was off (Memorial Day–the last Monday in May) it was “the bridge” to summer. A parade, marching bands, and usually a very moving outdoor service to honor the brave and fallen. It was a bookend to school and the scent of lake breezes. Great memories.
    I hope your holiday has you spending more time reclining on the beach than scrunched up in your car. Happy holidays!
    Cheers

    1. Merci, M’dam. What France really needs is a major overhaul of its holidays that would leave us with one true holiday weekend like yours – the loss of business during May is just insane. Although if the entire country packed onto the A6 to go south at once, I’m not sure we’d ever make it home. Nice profile pic by the way!

  4. Oh the accordion of the A6… It always used to defeat me as to why all French people travelled on the same day. It was only after my first joli mois de mai that I understood…

    1. We always did whatever we could to avoid it – leave a little later, or a day ahead…but in the end, the culprit is the school calendar and it is entirely inflexible. The joys! 😉

  5. I loved hearing about these terms for the long weekends and vacation days! I teach French in the U.S., and I think my students will really enjoy learning these cultural tidbits you share! Merci!

    1. We miss you too, Nancy! But this year has been over-the-top. Personally I think they should cut back on the public holidays and just keep one or two nice ‘ponts’.

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