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!