If you’re looking for lunch out, lunchtime is not the best time to do it. Because the shops that sell lunch close for lunch. Yes you heard right. The spa, the boulangerie, the bakery, the places that sell your quiche and pie and a bit of cake – all the things you want most at lunchtime out of all the other times of day – are closed so the staff can have their own lunches. Because it’s lunchtime. This absolute rigid refusal to change centuries of tradition and give in to the demands of the market, whatever state your business might be in, is another characteristic of the French.
Outside town there are two biggish supermarkets – one is a big chain that does stay open all day, the other smaller one doesn’t. It loses out on a lot of custom because of this and may soon have to close. But it will close before it bows to pressure from lunchtime consumers. They should be sitting having lunch at lunchtime, lunchtime is not the time to buy lunch, is their attitude. Restaurants and cafes will only serve lunch between 12 and 1. If you leave it til after 2 to look for lunch you’ll go hungry.
Some people find this whole thing frustrating. In England we have 24 hour shopping and expect to be able to get our hands on something we need at any time of the day or night we need it. Some people respect the French desire to slow things down, keep meal times sacred family occasions and remember that life’s not all about work. Some people just want a bloody sandwich because the one they had in the fridge went off.