Monthly Archives: July 2021

Parisian summer, part 2

What is it like to be American tourists in France during a pandemic? Well, it’s not not scary, especially for people like me, and the decision wasn’t an easy one. Obviously the absolute safest, easiest choice would’ve been to stay home. We never approached this in terms of “now that the pandemic is finally over,” just like haven’t had any large gatherings yet and have always continued to mask up indoors. We were aware that we’d be taking chances in traveling so far from home, and we knew that to do so would entail embracing a lot of uncertainty as well as adjustments and inconveniences, with no guarantees that they would pay off, and that never stops feeling intimidating and humbling.

Between the time we entered the taxi outside our house in Washington DC, and the time we exited the taxi outside our building in Paris, we had been wearing our Niosh N95 masks for a total of 17 hours. Ouch.

While mask compliance at the DCA and Newark airports was iffy at times, it was a lot more consistent on the Newark-Paris flight. There were also frequent reminders from flight attendants for passengers to keep masks up at all times. Here in France, masks must be worn indoors at all times, as well as outdoors whenever there is crowding. Also, far more people continue to wear them outdoors compared to the US. The moment we enter a queue, even if we’re still outside, people routinely tend to pull on their masks without having to be told.

standard sign everywhere in the city

A few days before our departure, we learned of a new Health Pass that would go into effect in France on July 21st. It’s required for entering most visitor attractions, and starting in August, will be extended to restaurants. Proof of full vaccination for anyone 18 and over is usually enough to generate the Pass, and for anyone over 18 who’s unvaccinated, there has to be a negative Covid test within the past 48 hours. Plenty of places offer onsite testing with 15-minute results for this purpose.

David and I each obtained a Health Pass in the form of a QR code by showing our vaccination card and photo ID at a pharmacy; we are asked to show our QR code everywhere we go.

I know that both the Health Pass and mask mandates have generated protests here, but I for one feel reassured being here because of these measures. (PS. I never thought the CDC’s decision to lift mask mandates on an ‘honor system’ basis for vaccinated folks in the US was a good idea.) I still cringe, however, when I see the locals (who btw have gotten a lot younger since I was last here) sitting shoulder-to-shoulder at happy hour, even if it is outside!

There are hand sanitizers on restaurant tables and ^ by each bus stop.

Again, we know we’re taking risks, and we are taking plenty of precautions, too. One of them is no dining indoors at restaurants, a practice we’ve had since March 2020. Luckily, most places offer fantastic outdoor seating, with the added bonus of glorious people-watching. When we go to sit, we are deliberate in selecting tables near the outer edges of the dining space, and always have Eric sit in the farthest point from other people. Only David or I do the indoor shopping, including when we had to go to Ikea a few days ago, and only I went in. We’re also not traveling by train or public transit; only taxi or Uber or a car share, with lots of walking.

When we do need to spend a lot of time at indoor public spaces, we wear KN95 masks. Here we are about to enter the Louvre.

For longer trips outside the city, we plan on renting a car. The choice to drive instead of riding a train where we could relax and therefore travel farther is a good example of a compromise, because it limits how far we’re willing to travel outside Paris. But these trade-offs mean we actually get to do this now rather than wait another year, plus it feels good to be able to show respect and solidarity to this country that has welcomed us. And with that, may the adventures continue safely!

Oh, why did we have to go to Ikea? Story forthcoming :).

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Parisian summer, part 1

Although I’ve never lived in Paris, I have an interesting history of visits to this glorious city. My most recent time here was in 2009, and my son Eric had never been here, so it was about time for another trip! My family and I had very enthusiastically planned a spring break trip here … departing on March 19, 2020. We booked five nights at a hotel in the 7th Arrondissement, and were counting down the days, certain that the unfolding virus crisis would, at most, require us to take additional measures during our visit …

Paris in 1992; click on photo ^ for a story from that trip

Fast forward four scary, lonely, frustrating months. Some time last July, I said to David, “If the world has reopened enough by this time next year, why don’t we get out of the country for a whole month? You could work from there if needed, and we could really get to experience the town or city.” So instead of the original five days we’d planned on being in Paris last year, we are here for four weeks this year. I mean why not, right?

another Paris story, from 2004

I scoured the internet for apartment rentals, filtering my search to ones that permitted cancellation with a full refund up until July 2021. Other criteria included two bedrooms, a bit of local character, and washer & dryer. I wanted to be within a mile or less from the Seine. Also, we tried looking for a place with air conditioning: Lol, NO, at least not within our budget. (I also watched House Hunters International. Like, a lot.)

2009, click on photo ^ for story

In the end, I reserved a surprisingly (suspiciously?) affordable top-floor flat on a small side street in the 2nd Arrondissement, and we all spent the following twelve months alternating between bracing for disappointment and embracing timid optimism, while weighing our risk tolerance and commitment to safety constantly, too.

countdown to Paris, take deux (2021)

We followed the news, read multiple French government sites for guidelines, and double and triple checked that we had everything we needed to enter France responsibly during their restricted reopening, and still cautioned ourselves and each other against getting too excited. We gave ourselves plenty of time during our connection in Newark, and as soon as an airline employee arrived behind the counter at our gate, we went over and showed him our electronic boarding passes along with all the documents we’d prepared. Good thing, too, because he then gave us a printed boarding pass, on which he wrote OK, and this turned out to be required for boarding. Sure enough, plenty of passengers hadn’t completed this step, and during boarding, they were all sent back to the counter to obtain their OK’d printout. Now, you’ve heard of unruly air travelers being especially bad this year, right? Yep, well, we saw a few very angry folks not being their best selves in that moment, yelling at the boarding attendant because of this.

Nevertheless, we couldn’t believe how smooth everything had otherwise been so far for us. So when departure was delayed after we were already on the plane, we went “Yep, this is where they cancel the flight!” It literally wasn’t until takeoff that we believed fully that we were at long last, on our way to Paris. We still prepared for many hurdles upon arrival at Charles De Gaulle, but it turned out to be a piece of cake, or I should say gâteau.

taking off!
may we be well, and let the adventures begin …

We have now settled well into our home away from home, and are recovering from jetlag. Grateful hearts and beauty at every turn help a lot. I am sitting at this window beside our kitchen table as I write this. Grateful heart indeed.

inspiring view from our kitchen

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