My apologies for the delay in replying to comments recently, and if I by chance missed a comment, please forgive me. Ironically, after an initial lull in the action, the workload here has intensified. I have been squeezed for time and responding to everyone’s contributions in a timely manner has been difficult. I hope to be back on track soon. Thank you for your continued participation. You make the blog so vibrant and nourishing to not just other readers, but to me as well, and I’m grateful.
At present, Paris is stepping out into the next phase of reopening. Cafes, bars, and restaurants with terraces (sidewalk cafes) will be able to open and seat customers in their exterior spaces on Tuesday. To go service from an open window or barricaded front door has been the norm for those establishments that have remained open. Now, with social distancing regulations in place, Paris’ cultural and culinary hubs will hobble back to life, bruised but (hopefully) unbowed.
As I may have mentioned, industry experts predict that 40% of the city’s cafes, bars, and restaurants will not reopen, a devastating blow to neighborhoods whose residents count on the cafes for caffeine, cognac, croissants, and comfort. I speak from personal experience: the most difficult part of the lockdown was the absence of Friday night huddles with my neighbors and friends at the cafe around the corner, and the inability of having somewhere I could go and be as alone (with my thoughts) or social (with others) as I wanted to be.
“I survived the pandemic in Paris.” Not something you’d have printed on a T-shirt and wear around friends in a bid for sympathy. The danger was immediate and personal, but Parisians kept their wits about them, and the French government handled the crisis with efficiency, organization, and common sense. Right now, I’m more worried about my friends in the US than I am about my friends here.
This week and the coming weeks mark welcome changes to French life. Museums and other cultural sites will open in the next day or two. People will be able to travel more than 100 kilometers from their residence. Parks are reopening, although, with typical Parisian flair, a local citizen went around the city, picking the locks of gates to numerous closed city parks late at night, allowing them to swing wide open and admit the adventurous and those hungry for exercise, greenery, and fresh air. The culprit was never apprehended, but I don’t think the police really gave the matter that much attention, either.
Travel from one European country to another will be possible in the coming weeks, as France is coordinating with other EU member states to slowly get the tourism business back on track. Professional sports teams (soccer and rugby) are preparing to hold matches in September, but no one is certain if there will be fans in the stands or not.
International travel to and from France is still up in the air. Right now, it’s very restricted. Just when tourists from San Paolo or San Fransisco will coming flooding back into Paris is anybody’s guess, with not many wagers being placed on any date prior to October 1, 2020, and more likely scenarios beginning in 2021 with rigorous pre-travel testing and at-airport screening part of the package.
How hotels and other accommodation providers will adjust is something that I know is being discussed, but I have no information about. Given the French penchant for style in all things, elegant face masks have appeared, constructed of the finest fabrics with intricate stitching and vibrant colors. Bespoke, perhaps. I guess it’s not enough to just survive: one has to do so with penache.
The one custom that has been difficult to refrain from is the kiss-kiss greeting on each cheek. The tenderness inherent in this ritual is sorely missed during this time. The inability to shake hands with friends is also depressing. Bumping elbows just doesn’t seem to cut it. I’m going to have to explore the propriety of doing the bis-bis while wearing a face mask.
I’ll let you know what I find out. Be safe and kind.