Confinement Redux

A friend back in Oakland, Ca wrote to me this morning asking me if I was ok. He included a photo from the Associated Press that was titled: “Parisians flee, sidewalks empty, as France enters lockdown.” The photo showed a solitary figure walking an empty street and everything was grey. My friend said “Frightening to see this–hope you’re holding out ok.”

Photo my friend sent. It turns out this street is in Bayonne not Paris.

It has been an adventure of sorts. Wednesday evening, 8pm CET, President Macron announced that France was going back into lockdown. Although he claims that it will be slightly different than the last time, I haven’t seen what the difference is. I was still in Normandie and knew I had to get home. The lockdown started at midnight on Friday. I was able to get a train reservation for Saturday morning and began a whirlwind, frenetic packing generated by my sense of urgency. But as each hour went by, the urgency subsided. I was told that the shelves were sparse and so I packed a full bag of my groceries that I hadn’t yet used. By the time I left on Saturday morning, I had my one fairly large suitcase, my cat inside her carrier which is soft and can be worn over the shoulder, my ‘market’ bag in which I carry things I might need during the day, the full bag of groceries and another bag that held all the overflow.

I turned my car in at the train station and loaded myself up with all my ‘stuff’. I got about five feet and I knew it was all too much and too heavy. I started to do something I hate in myself and hadn’t done in a long time. I sighed very, very loudly, tried to look as miserable and helpless as I felt, tilted to the left with the weight of the grocery bag, sighed a little louder, all in hopes that someone would come rushing to my rescue. I must have looked a bit lunatic if not homeless, and I’m sure anyone who passed me gave me a wide berth. I made very slow progress. I realized I would have to go up and over the bridge to get to the quai where the train to Paris was. I was close to tears. Someone did say there was an elevator but didn’t offer to help. I was halfway across the bridge still doing my Sarah Bernhardt act when an employee of SNCF asked where I was headed, grabbed two of my bags, and, asking which car I was in, deposited me in Voiture 5. The train left within 30 seconds of my being inside.

Of course, I pulled the same stunt walking to the taxi queue in Paris. This time, a young woman stopped and helped me. I was home in my apartment three hours after leaving my friends’ home in Normandie. Ultimately I was glad for all the groceries as I had no energy to shop for food on Saturday.

Sunday morning, Day 3 of Confinement Deux, I went for my usual morning walk at 10:30am. On my walk, I pass a parcours with exercise machines in the Jardin du Ranelagh. My habit is to stop for about fifteen minutes, and every other day work out my arms and, on alternate days, my legs. The parcours was packed with people. I’m not sure if the area would be considered a space for gathering but there were well over thirty people. Three-quarters were not wearing masks. I got on one machine, felt scared, got off and went on my way to finish my walk. This morning, it was the same thing on a much smaller level, probably twelve people total, all the men not wearing masks.

Current Covid-19 numbers in France, according to the Health Minister: 1 new positive every 2 seconds; 1 hospitalisation every 30 seconds; 1 death every 4 minutes

When I left Paris on October 14th, everyone was wearing a mask. Was this a rebellion? I noticed a number of people not wearing masks just walking or wearing the mask under their nose. Not only did my neighbourhood NOT look like the photo my friend sent, it seemed teeming with life. Av. Mozart, my shopping street, had more people than usual. Only stores that sold necessities were open so my little clothing store was closed but the florists were open. They were not open the first time around. I was able to purchase my weekly bunch of flowers and that made me happy.

Around Europe, the numbers are devastating.

Macron said that the confinement would last one month but everything would be reviewed in fifteen days. If the cases of Covid-19 had stopped rising and looked to be diminishing, there was the possibility of some of the restrictions being relaxed. That is not likely to happen. Countries around France are following suit. The UK isn’t calling it a lockdown but much the same rules are in place. Germany is in lockdown. Spain and Italy had cities in lockdown for weeks already. Macron has said that this second wave is and will continue to be much more devastating.

Wearing masks in Paris on Friday, October 30.

Last Spring, the days were getting longer. It was a novel experience and people all over the world went out on their balconies to sing and clap for the healthcare workers. Now the days are getting shorter, the wind howls at night and no one is celebrating anything. And, for US citizens, tomorrow is a day that almost everyone has been awaiting for four years, many of us have been working at getting out the vote, making sure everyone over here knows they must register anew every year, and that it is an honour to be able to vote. So Please Vote. Now we, and the rest of the world, are holding our collective breath both hoping and fearing the results.

So, to my friend in Oakland, I will respond, “Yes, I’m holding up. My Paris doesn’t look like that photo and I’m not sure if that is good or bad. Both politically and health wise, I think we are in for a long, cold winter. Je t’embrasse.”

A bientôt,

Sara

Bonjour de Paris vide

Last Friday, my computer and my Wi-Fi stopped talking to each other. I have reached out to savvy techy friends and to Apple support. A bit like taking two entities to a therapy session in hopes they will start to get along again. No dice. They refuse. As frustration built—I know nothing about how these things work internally, but am completely dependent on my computer for my work—I hit a wall and just had to laugh. It was one thing after another. By Tuesday evening, I was ready to impulsively buy a new laptop from Apple and have it delivered—even though it wouldn’t be delivered until the end of May. Meanwhile, through extensive searching through way too much stuff, I found an itty bitty keyboard that works with my mini-iPad. Wednesday morning, I woke up and thought “Just use your iPad Sara, make do. Take the time to do some research. Apple stores will probably open up by end of May.” So that’s what I’m doing. This is doing for me what the virus did not do: slowing me down. I can’t get to many of my files. Security for sites like Dropbox is so good, it is next to impossible to jump through the hoops to get to your own work when using a different device. Each time I say a Grrrrrrrr, this is so frustrating, I remind myself that I’m choosing the iPad. No one is doing this to me.

The Louvre and the pyramid. Photo: Brigid Blanco

Having most of my time taken up with problem solving, I haven’t written a blog. Now for the first time, I’m using my what seems to me to be giant finger tips, to type on this itty bitty keyboard. And I’m going to make it easier on myself by showing something no one in my life time has ever seen before two months ago. An empty Paris. A Paris with no tourists bustling around. A Paris without the busyness of cars frantic to get from one side to the other. A Paris where ducks and geese are swimming in the Seine, a river without boats and bateaux mouches.

Walking along the Quai, right bank, towards The Louvre photo: Brigid Blanco

Another gorgeous, sunny Spring day is unfolding in Paris. The irony to me is that this is the earliest Spring we’ve had in many years and most of us are respecting the Confinement guidelines by only being outside for short periods at a time. I read an article in the Guardian that said the change in ocean noise since the lockdown began, is so profound that whales are calling out to each other more. The Belin whale, who are always stressed by the ocean noise, are now destressing. Another reminder of the overwhelming impact, not just the virus is having on us, but our response is having on the planet.

Walking bridge over the Seine looking towards The Louvre, photo: Brigid Blanco

D-Day (J-Jour) is coming on Monday. I wonder if I will have a chance to get into the center of Paris before people hit the streets. I walked up to M&S yesterday and the sidewalks in the 16th were full of people, about 3/4s wearing the recommended face masks. The shoe store near the Passy Poste was open with no one inside. The e-cigarette store on Av Mozart was open. I couldn’t see inside. Two florists near M&S were open for the first time. I bought a bouquet of peonies. The florist made me wait outside while he wrapped the flowers for me to carry home.

Rue de Rivoli – May 5,2020 Photo: Brigid
Pont Alexandre III. Photo: Jeff Waters
side street looking towards Pantheon. Photo: Jeff Waters
Metro station at St. Michel/Notre Dame. Photo: Jeff Waters

Stay strong, stay safe and use your head when deciding whether or not to stay at home.

A bientôt,

Sara

Paris: in the time of Coronavirus

Today marks the beginning of Week 8 of “le Confinement” in France. Since the beginning, there have been renegade Parisians who have done whatever they wanted to do no matter what the French Government advised. The police have given thousands of fines to people who are out and about without their little “passports”. However, in the last week, since the government started thinking out loud on TV about what the “deconfinement” might look like, people haven’t been willing to wait until May 11 for the rules to lighten up. Many of my friends, it turns out, have taken long walks, way past the 1 kilometre boundary to see Paris without tourists, without shoppers, without workers bustling about, mostly without anyone. Those who are good with their phones have taken some wonderful photos as the New York Times did also when it published the above article.

The idea of seeing Paris as it may have looked 60/70/80 years ago is extremely tempting. A friend said to take three pieces of paper with me. One for each hour I’m out. That would give me three hours instead of one hour. I had a plan to do it today then got the weather report–rain all afternoon. I’m thinking that even in the rain, the sight of an empty Paris, would be worth it. Chances are I’ll never see it like this again. In two weeks, people will be out and about, albeit with masks on. Colorful masks, made-at-home masks, made to order from indigenous people masks, but masks nevertheless. No matter what the lightening of the rules is, two things that won’t change are the social distancing and wearing of masks.

The Louvre and Pyramid Photo: Jeff Waters

This was in The Guardian on Sunday: “

The pandemic has killed 22,614 people in France since the start of March, with officials on Saturday reporting 369 new deaths in the previous 24 hours. The global death toll from the novel coronavirus pandemic passed 200,000 on Sunday. Seventeen priorities have been identified for gradually bringing France out of lockdown from 11 May. These include reopening schools, companies returning to work, getting public transport back to normal, the supply of masks and sanitiser, testing policy and support for the elderly. Philippe’s presentation to the National Assembly on Tuesday will be followed by a debate and a vote. France’s move comes as the World Health Organization has warned against “immunity passports” for recovered patients, seen as a possible tool for countries preparing to reopen their economies. “There is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from Covid-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection,” said a WHO statement.”

Entering the Tuileries Gardens Photo: Jeff Waters

The French PM Edouard Philippe has now laid out plans for ‘Deconfinement’. D Day is May 11.

May 11th

  • Shops can reopen as long as social distancing and hygiene measures are in place. Local authorities can refuse shops permission to reopen and can refuse to allow shopping centres over 40,000 sq m to reopen. Masks are recommended for shoppers and shops can turn away customers who are not wearing a mask
  • Pre schools and primary schools will reopen. The process of reopening of schools and nurseries will be gradual and phased out over several weeks. Post-16 high-schools (lycées), technical colleges (lycée professionel) and universities stay closed. Sending children back to school will not be compulsory.
  • Work can resume for some people – people who can work at home are asked to keep doing that, but other businesses can reopen, provided the workplace maintain social distancing measures. This could include introducing part time working or staggered shifts
  • Public transport will increase – in Paris public transport will go back to 70 percent of its normal levels, in other cities it is up to local authorities. Masks will be compulsory on all public transport
  • The attestation permission form can be binned – except for trips exceeding 100km. Travel between regions and départements is allowed up to a maximum of 100km from home, but people are encouraged to travel only when essential.
  • Some cultural activities can resume, provided social distancing can be observed – so libraries and bookshops can reopen as well as some smaller museums and tourist sites but larger sites and cinemas, theatres and music venues will remain closed
  • Churches and other places of worship can open, provided they can ensure distance between worshippers. No religious ceremonies are allowed however.
  • Some socialising can begin again, provided it is in groups of fewer than 10. So going to a friend’s house for dinner would be allowed again
  • Funerals can be held, but with a maximum of 20 people
  • Individual physical activity such as jogging and cycling can resume without restrictions. Collective sports activities and sports involving physical contact will not be allowed yet. The Local
Looking straight up Champs Elysees to Arc de Triomphe Photo: Jeff Waters
Standing in line at the Poste in the 16th a week ago Photo: Sara Somers

May 11th is two weeks away but with everyone’s thoughts way ahead of ourselves, it’s easy to start planning. I realise one of the things I love about being in lockdown is that I don’t have to plan. I don’t have to be somewhere and hurry up and finish something. It’s probably true that life will never go back to before pandemic (BP) but I can already feel that I will miss just having to live in today.

A bientôt,

Sara