The Case for Sundays

A picture is definitely not worth a thousand words.

No matter how skilled the photographer is, no image could truly capture the splendor of a beautiful Sunday in France: a day so completely reserved for time off that your body is physically forced to lower your blood pressure.

Park time.

In the city, the usual roar of traffic dulls to a rumble, leaving space in the air for the sounds of bicycle gears clicking, leaves scratching across the sidewalk, and the knives, forks and laughter of your neighbors’ rose garden luncheon. In the country, it’s the best day to go for a long, car-free run, then share a picnic by the river. You become incapable of speed beyond a leisurely stroll, you listen to jazz, cook big meals and catch up with friends and family you haven’t seen for weeks.

Fermé le dimanche.

Garlicky snack vendors.

When I first lived in France, it drove me up a wall that I couldn’t buy groceries or stop by the library on Sunday. There is one bakery in town open for a few hours. The movie theater’s lights are on. That’s all. Instead, families meander through the park, with the kids riding on rented tricycles and begging for a waffle from the vendor. The mandatory day off creates a kind of relaxation I’ve almost never experienced in the States–sometimes not even on vacation. “French Sundays” could create a deeper sense of family and peace… not to mention a national love of cinema.

This past vacation, the epic early September weather added to the feeling of a melted Sunday afternoon. Two hours in the sunshine, facing Place Denfert-Rochereau in Paris with a giant cup of espresso and an old friend, seemed necessary and not like time wasted. The rest of the day was spent in the park, at yard sales and a 5 euro wine festival. Even on cold or rainy days, Sundays inside can be days of baking, movies and coffee, without pressure to prep for Monday.

The trick is, can French Sundays be installed into a life in the United States? All grocery shopping and laundry be done beforehand, leaving only time to make put-off phone calls and long bike rides? Today’s schedule already includes the bike ride and fresh fried apples and biscuits. Let’s hope for the best.