Most clothing stores, patisseries, bakeries and other shops close their doors at 12 noon and don't reopen until 2:00 or even 2:30 pm. These closures give proprietors and their staff ample time to enjoy lunch with a friend or spouse, and even run an errand or two.
Sure, it is true that France is one of McDonalds' most successful non-U.S. markets. And in Paris, many workers are opting for fairly quick lunches of sandwiches. But in the small towns and villages outside the capital city, one still sees plenty of French eating lunch at a leisurely pace at restaurants or cafes. The cheque dejeuner system encourages this.
That photo above was my lunch one day as we stopped in the Burgundian village of Gevrey-Chambertin, amid the region's hallowed vineyards. I ordered the foie gras, which was served with wonderfully toasted slices of brioche, caramelized onions, some greens and a fig-balsamic glaze.