When we first stayed in Argenton-sur-Creuse in central France some years ago we were struck by just how busy this little town of merely 5000 inhabitants could get during shopping hours. Where did all these people come from we wondered? Well, from neighbouring villages and remote properties apparently – Argenton servicing about 15000 people in all.
Everything you could possibly need is available in town, with an extraordinary number of hairdressers and chemists (the French do like to look after themselves) – as well as numerous patisseries, which is no surprise. (Just a note here that chemists – or should I say pharmacies – in France remain much more medicinal dispensaries, not like the mini-markets that chemists in Australia have become.)
During that traditional extended lunchtime closure, the streets seem suddenly deserted, and an almost eerie hush falls.
Many a time we were caught out, when we finally got out of the house around lunchtime to go and buy something we “urgently” needed for the latest cooking creation or continuing renovations, only to find that we had left it too late and would have to wait until 2 or 2.30pm before we could return to make our purchase. Oh dear. C’est la vie!
But while the hardware stores or supermarkets may have closed, the patisseries and cafes were always open so stopping for a cheap cuppa or a delicious treat meant it was never a wasted trip!
Times change (they call it progress don’t they), and more and more of the larger shops in and around Argenton and particularly in the much bigger city of Chateaurox (30km away), are extending their opening hours with large signs declaring that they are open “sans interruption“, and yet are still staying open until 7pm or so in the evening.
Of course that’s very convenient, but I have grown to appreciate that break in the day.
Personally, I prefer the “hush” to the “hustle” and I hope that traditional closure will remain in Argenton-sur-Creuse for many years to come.