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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