In 40+ years of working, I don’t remember ever being told “Take the day off”. Like most people, you fit your vacation days around those of others. Other than when someone calls in sick, there just aren’t any surprises or even the opportunity to simply stop what you’re doing and walk off the job, even for a day. That all changed when we moved to France for a couple of reasons: we’re both retired now and one of the requirements for obtaining a visa to live here was our promise that we wouldn’t work. Sounds like a permanent day off…until you buy a house.
Some American friends recently moved to Carcassonne and they are still in that delightful “pinch me” phase of actually living here. It’s a wonderful feeling of being surrounded by history, of living between two UNESCO World Heritage sites, and having the time to enjoy it all on a whim, whenever you like. I remember it well: walks along the river and canal, rambles through the cobblestone streets of the fortress and castle overlooking the city below, stopping at a sidewalk café for a glass of wine.
Then we bought a house. Suddenly your days are filled with patching, plastering, painting and looking in the dictionary for the French equivalent for all of those words plus every other item found in a hardware store. Language classes don’t seem to include a session on DIY. Then when you’re not actually engaged in a project, you’re waiting at the house for one of the many delivery services to bring you an item you couldn’t locate in a store here.
Realizing that we were the ones putting ourselves under a deadline to get everything finished as quickly as possible, it was time to tell ourselves “take the day off”, and that’s exactly what we did recently. Bill had picked up a flyer about a gallery in town highlighting the works of a dozen local artists. The city’s fine arts museum, located across Square Gambetta from the gallery, featured a touring watercolor display that would soon be leaving. Conveniently between the two is an outdoor café where we had previously enjoyed drinks with friends. With numerous art galleries in Carcassonne and even more sidewalk cafés, we’ll have no problem in finding a diversion the next time we need a break.