Today marks the French government’s official ‘open for tourist business’ day, as the country welcomes vaccinated Americans to its shores beginning June 9th.
My understanding of the process is that US travelers can present proof of vaccination or proof of a negative COVID test within 72 hours of their flight at the boarding gate and, with their ticket, make the trip to France.
Having endured the pandemic from my cozy but quite comfortable perch here overlooking the Seine, I can say that visiting France, and in particular Paris, is probably the best travel choice you can make.
Here are a few reasons why I believe this is so…
First, it’s Paris. Few cities offer more to see and do, even if you’ve visited before. My wife and I have lived here four years. We could live here forty more and not see everything. If you’ve already visited the major sites–the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, I suggest a return trip to the city.
Hire a private guide to walk and talk you through a neighborhood. You’ll learn about history, culture, and architecture from a well informed–and usually passionate–tour guide. If you’re lucky, they’ll also be a Parisian. There’s nothing quite like it.
Second, Paris has excelled in health and safety practices throughout the pandemic and continues to do so today. Lockdowns were effective in controlling the virus. Vaccination rates have climbed steadily. Reopening of cafes, boutiques, and museums has been slow and is still predicated on infection rates, though the possibility that France would return to restrictions is small. Border restrictions and relentless testing and quarantine regulations–especially for visitors from the UK, India, and Brazil–limit the chances of another wave hitting French soil.
At present, all Parisians wear masks, indoors and outdoors. As a visitor, should do the same or face the possibility of a 135 euro fine from the (apparently) easy-going but (actually quite) diligent police. Tables on cafe terraces are socially distanced, each blessed with its own bottle of hand sanitizer. Boutiques and museums similarly limit the number of customers or visitors who can enter at any one time, require the wearing of masks, and encourage the use of hand sanitizer. The Frenchies have played by the rules all the way through this mess and are now enjoying the rewards, unlike some of their European neighbors.
Third, Air France is offering some great deals on flights. Check out their website and enjoy world-class French service and comfort before you ever land in Paris. After a dozen or more trips back to the states since we’ve been living here, I won’t fly any other airline. There’s just no comparison in terms of reliability, service, and comfort.
Fourth, the Parisians are so very happy to be back at work and ‘back at life’. Their enthusiasm will overwhelm and delight you. The waiters and waitresses have a bounce in their step and a twinkle in their eye. The patrons of cafes are like kids coming back to school after summer vacation, laughing and bumping elbows with neighbors and friends. It’s a joyful, triumphant reunion and a celebration of the charming, enduring, French way of life. Come over. Revel in it before everybody gets grumpy again.
Fifth, so much of Paris can be enjoyed outdoors where risk of exposure and infection is minimal. Monuments and statues still stand proud, unbowed by the virus. Tour boats have begun easing down the Seine. The riverbanks bustle with joggers and the less ambitious. Parents lounge under trees, slurp melting ice cream, and keep one eye on the kids. City parks remain lush and pristine, in bloom and welcoming. Dogs sniff, wag their tails, and introduce themselves as their owners smile and nod at one another, keeping a mindful hand on their respective leashes.
It’s Paris. What else can you say? It’s elegant. It’s easy. It’s sophisticated. It’s seductive.
And it’s back.