The Rentrée: Back to School, Back to Work, Resuming French Life

The <i>Rentrée:</i> Back to School, Back to Work, Resuming French Life

Rentrée literally means reentry, and that’s just what everyone does in September in France.  After the lazy days of late summer holidays, the Rentrée is the time to resume work, academia, and the routine.  For visitors, this period is a unique and exciting opportunity to observe France in her element. 

For the back-to-schoolers, there are incredible libraries all throughout Paris and beyond in which to be inspired and motivated.  Some are so beautiful or historic that they will even appeal to many non-academics out there:

Open to students, this beautiful and airy library designed by Henri Labrouste features a reading room full of light with a twin vaulted ceiling.  Inaugurated in 1851, Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève boasts a historic and traditional feeling, especially through its rich dark wood interior.  It faces the Church of Ste. Geneviève and Place du Panthéon in the 6th arrondissement.  The general collection includes an extensive selection on history texts from the 19th century to today.

10 place du Panthéon
75005 Paris
Tél: +33 (0) 1 44 41 97 97
Métro: Luxembourg
For more information:

• BIBLIOTHÈQUE CENTRE POMPIDOU (Bibliothèque publique d'information)
This modern and expansive multimedia space, part study hall/social scene part state of the art library, is housed in Beaubourg based Centre Pompidou in the very heart of the city.  Younger students congregate with their laptops on the large flat tables while any assortment of Parisians sample music, video and internet media on the computer stations placed throughout.

Centre Pompidou
rue Beaubourg<?xml:namespace prefix = o />
75004 Paris
Tél: +33 (0) 1 44 78 12 33
Metro: Rambuteau/Hôtel de Ville
For more information: 

The premier modern library of Paris (and France), this modern 4-tiered structure stands to the southeast of Paris in the diverse and up-and-coming 13th arrondissement.  Designed by Dominique Perrault, the structures are said to look like four open books.  A destination for students pursuing higher degrees as well as those curious to learn more about...anything, some of France's oldest books are found here.  But good luck getting to see them: the librarians here are known for being strict and by-the-book...
Quai François-Mauriac
75706 Paris Cedex 13
Tél: +33(0)1 53 79 59 59
Metro: Bibliothèque François-Mitterrand
For more information:

These are just some of the notable libraries found in Paris.  General information on exhibitions/cultural events in all the libraries of Paris can be found at:

A walk through the 5th arrondissement will surely take you past the Sorbonne (Paris IV site) at 1 rue Victor Cousin.  As France’s oldest and most famous university, this is truly an educational institution.  Be sure to check out the Cour d’honneur, a beautiful and historic pavilion just inside. Métro: Saint-Michel ou Odéon

The university towns of France outside of Paris are also places to be during the Rentrée.  Lille, Toulouse, and Strasbourg are all home to thriving French universities and many young citizens, who help to liven up the atmosphere and make these cities true destinations for travellers:

• Strasbourg, in the Alsace-Lorraine region of Eastern France, combines German and French influences in a flurry of activity found throughout this canal-filled, beautiful walking city.  There are students galore of all nationalities and backgrounds.  Be sure not to miss the phenomenal late-gothic Cathédrale Notre-Dame in the center of town!

• Lille, with its three public University institutions, is unmistakably a college town.  Directly to the north Paris, Lille isn’t far at all from Belgium and its programs offer a whole variety of studies.  The city itself mixes the modern with the classic, the old with the new, especially through Les Maisons Folie, traditional factories and workshops that have been updated as community centers and historic landmarks.

• Toulouse, or ‘La Ville Rose’ (the Pink City) is found closer to the Pyrenees in Southwestern France.  With its peach- and rose-colored buildings rising up around the river Garonne, this multi-faceted city has much to offer by way of culture,
student life and background.

But La Rentrée doesn’t only mean back to school.  To observe the buzzing routine of Working France, you can’t beat the Capital.  For professionals both in Europe and the world beyond, Paris continues to be a premier business destination.  Proof?  Here are some professional destinations in and around Paris that are worth a look even on a vacation:

• First, of course, is LA DEFENSE.  This soaring tribute to midtown Manhattan, with its skyscrapers and pavilions, crowds and eateries, hosts multitudes of corporate workers each day, almost all of whom commute in from the region in and around Paris.  La Défense remains comfortably outside of the actual city zone, but it is still well within reach on the end of the line 1 of the Parisian Métro (the central yellow line).  La Défense’s ties to its neighbor Paris are also found in its main architectural emblem, La Grande Arche.  This impressive giant white arch, completed in 1989, lines up on the ‘historical axis’ created by L’Arc de Triomphe at Etoile, the Obélisque in the Place de la Concorde, and the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel in the Tuileries Gardens.  On a clear day, if you’re in the right spot, you can see all three arches!

• For a more in-depth immersion into the lives and works of French professionals, the Office du Tourisme et des Congrès de Paris in association with Meeting the French offers an incredibly new approach: on-site visits with French artisans, craftsmen and professionals at their places of employment!  Discover the crafts and savoir-faire of many French traditions and industries.  Share in their passion as you visit Parisians’ offices, laboratories, bakeries, workshops and other locales normally closed to the public!  Enjoy a guided visit by a consummate expert who lives what he or she presents.  To gain a better view on what is on offer, go to the comprehensive Meeting the Parisians at Work 2007 Program.
For more information and to book/reserve: or Group reservations are possible upon request.

• The TOUR MONTPARNASSE (Montparnasse Tower), at the crossroads of the 14th, 15th and 6th arrondissements, serves as the hub for one of Paris’s busiest working quarters.  The only veritable skyscraper ever completed inside the city, the Tower stands as a very noticeable part of the Parisian skyline (all the other tall buildings were cleverly tucked away in La Défense).  But Montparnasse Tower is not just an office building: accessible and open to the public, it offers a view that can’t be beat either in the tower bar or luxurious restaurant.

• The 13th ARRONDISEMENT, considered by some to be the most versatile of neighborhoods within Paris’s city limits, neatly encapsulates two very different but complementary sides of its host city’s character; the old and the new.  Getting off the super-modern, super-fast Metro line 14 at Bibliothèque/Francois Mitterrand, you can find a playground of modern architecture that doesn’t impose on its surroundings and also achieves a certain urban, modern beauty.  Find yourself staring up at the book-corner towers of yet another library, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, a true architectural wonder.  But now you have a sense not only of the students buzzing around (perhaps getting a drink at the Frog and British Library, 114 avenue de France), but also of the professionals, many of them young, on their way to and from work in the area.  You remember that you are still in Paris after all, and a short walk in the other direction will bring you to more classic and older Parisian surroundings, most notably in the Buttes aux Cailles (which happens to be another popular hangout for the student set).

Things to see