Written by Zoe Manoukian
I was surprised to find nearly every storefront closed during my first Sunday in Nantes. In preparation for my travel, I had read about common times of rest in Europe—for instance, in London, many shops close by 18h00; in Spain many shops have a long afternoon break; and in France, few stores are open on Sunday. I thought the malls would surely stay open, and that the super markets could not possibly be closed.
It took finally being here and walking past the empty, dimly lit, shuttered streets for me to fully believe that almost every establishment would not see a single customer come Sunday, save the occasional boulangerie. Initially, this was a point of worry for me. I thought “what if all of my groceries go bad and I have nothing to eat?”, and “does this mean I will have no choice but to hide out in my 9 sq metre room all alone every Sunday?” Further, I felt uncomfortable with the idea of passing what felt like a lazy Sunday.
I soon found, though, that by planning ahead well, my groceries would not fail me, and that there are many pleasant ways to pass a day without touching your wallet. Now I appreciate the emphasis France puts on allowing us time to re-energize, and I am quite fond of my new day of rest. I see it as a time to sleep in and enjoy a cleansing afternoon before my week of studying starts again. In the warmer days, I had taken to writing by the river that runs downtown, and for the past few weeks I have been enjoying walking through one of our public gardens. I have also spent these Sundays walking through nearby trails with my friends or getting together to cook and paint.
I feel that by literally closing shop once a week, I am encouraged to work hard and plan well for the beginning of the week, and can then have a day of calm and reflection. I have a day completely at my disposal for doing whatever it is that I find to be regenerative and meaningful. I no longer feel uncomfortable with the thought of passing a “lazy” Sunday because I have realized that they are not lazy—rather I am manifesting my energy and passion into activities other than those which are demanded of me, and into past times that I know will set me up for a productive week. I hope that I remember how profoundly this day of rest has impacted my mentality when I return to the United States, and that even when fronted with both a country and university that places what I would consider to be a much less emphasis on rest, I can continue to honor my Sundays as moments of recuperation.