On Saturday evening the government announced further measures to hopefully slow the spread of COVID-19 in France. The only places open in France right now are essential stores. This list includes grocery stores, boulangeries (the French need their bread), TABAC’s (which sell another French essential, cigarettes) and pharmacies. Restaurants and cafés were forced to close. This marked the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown in Paris.
We were alone on the terrasse at our favorite spot, Le Voltaire when we heard the news. It was absolutely surreal and gut-wrenching following the December strikes which caused so much economic damage. But it was a necessary measure to take to “flatten the curve.”
Earlier that day, I went to buy a couple of thermometers at the pharmacy. I noticed so many people out and sitting at cafés. People just going about their normal lives, seemingly ignoring President Macron’s plea to protect those who are most at risk.
Yesterday afternoon, I went for a pastry and was shocked at how many people were again out and about, clearly not practicing social distancing. People sat packed next to each other by the Seine and in front of the Louvre. At that point it was clear to me that a full COVID-19 lockdown is coming to Paris, and likely sooner rather than later. Romain and I made the decision to go Normandy today.
It wasn’t an easy decision to make. We weighed a lot of pros and cons but ultimately decided this was the best thing we could do for ourselves, our neighbors, and France.
I’m not an anxious person, but seeing Paris yesterday without the cafés scared me. It seems like such a minor, insignificant thing in the grand scheme of the pandemic, but cafés are the heartbeat of Paris and France. What is Paris without cafés? It’s a question I don’t know the answer to.
This new reality really started to set in this morning. There were lines outside of every pharmacy and grocery store that I passed. Other than that, Paris was like a ghost town.
I have no idea what to expect in the coming days, weeks, and months. I hope that people take these restrictions seriously to protect themselves, their loved ones, and those who are most at-risk. From Normandy I’ll continue to share a Paris that’s full of life, energy, people, and cafés and hope that it’ll be reality sooner rather than later.