Sunday, 19 January 2014

Sunday Opening and Tourist Towns

Cluny - worth a detour
I can remember the debate about Sunday opening, when I lived in the UK, more than 25 years ago. But the battle, to keep Sunday special in England, has long been lost and sadly every High Street is now open. The Dutch held out longer and they went to Sunday opening in the last year or so, but here in France, the debate is just starting.

The current law (dating from 1906) states that a weekly day of rest must be given to employees and that day shall be a Sunday. There are exceptions to this law, one is for establishments that “are essential to life”. Hospitals are an obvious example of this category, but food shops creep in, as well as hotels, restaurants, petrol stations and interestingly tobacconists. Another exception is for establishments in a designated tourist zone.

Chateau de Cormatin, most visited tourist site in Saône-et-Loire
In the lead up to Christmas, the big department stores in Paris wanted to open every Sunday to cash in on the Christmas rush, but apparently the Boulevard de Haussmann is not classified as being in a tourist area. However, they and the DIY stores around Paris cocked a snook at the government and defied the ban by opening anyway. A wonderful French solution was been found to this problem. Rather than confront these establishments, DIY shops have been included (rather dubiously in my opinion) into the category of shops that are "essential for life" and the Boulevard de Haussmann has been granted opening status by declaring it a “tourist site”.

All of this has raised some interesting debate in the newspapers, but particularly interetsing is that we now know the official list of tourist sites in our own corner of the world.

Paray-le-Monial, not even mentioned
If you were to choose only 5 tourist towns in our département (Saône-et-Loire), which ones would you choose? Well Cluny is an obvious one for starters and that is in fact the case - Cluny is on the list. Being rather parochial, I’d go for Cormatin, we do after all have the site the most visited in the whole département – the chateau. And yes! We make it into the hallowed five. Tournus gets in there and with it’s Abbey church I can see why, but then the list gets a little confusing for me. The last two communes are Dompierre-les-Ormes and Montceau-les-Mines. Umm interesting choices. What about Autun, with its cobbled streets and stunning cathedral? What about Mont Beuvray with Bibract? What about Paray-le-Monial, Anzy-le-Duc, Semur-en-Brionnais? I could go on.

Dompierre-les-Ormes, worth a visit?
I must be missing something. What do these two privileged towns have that the others don’t? Well Dompierre-les-Ormes has a wood museum and an arboretum, but it must surely have more to offer than that to get such glorified status. We went there this week to find out and I took some photos. Does this look like a town that is going to attract a multitude of tourists? And as for Montceau-les-Mines, that is not even worth wasting my time by taking a photo.

But what does this mean for the tourists? Does Cluny open up in all its glory? If you are a Sunday opening fan you will be disappointed - the vast majority of the shopkeepers would prefer to stay at home with their families. Here in Cormatin, you can always find the wine merchant, the jeweller and the arts and crafts centre open, but on the other hand Tournus always seems pretty shut to me on a Sunday and whether the pharmacy in Dompierres-les-Ormes will bother to open, I very much doubt.

What are all those avid Sunday shoppers going to do? Chalon and Mâcon are not on the list, consequently they should be shut on the day of rest, so it looks like everyone will have to go to Montceau-les-Mines. Montceau-les-Mines has therefore become a tourist attraction as the only large town for miles around that has its shops open on a Sunday. That must be why it is on the list!

Montceau-les-Mines - one of the top tourist sites in Burgundy ummm...

For information about holiday accommodation in an official tourist town, that's actually worth the visit click here.

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