Parisian summer, part 4

Last week we went on a 4-day trip to Normandy. We’d initially reserved a B&B, where after a bit of back and forth leading up to our trip, the hosts told us –rather angrily– that there was nothing they could/would do to accommodate our request for breakfast either in our room or outside. They would keep tables one meter apart, mainly because they were required to, and maybe we could eat after everyone else had eaten. But outside or elsewhere or even near an open window within the dining room? No, and they resented guests requesting anything that wasn’t mandated within the country’s current Covid restrictions (which they also seemed to resent). Because how dare guests use the pandemic to “make up their own rules!” We promptly canceled that reservation, further angering the B&B folks: “If you are so afraid for your child, then maybe you shouldn’t have come to Europe with him.”

On this, they have a legitimate point, because needless to say, we almost didn’t come. The pandemic has required of all of us whole new levels of assessing and balancing risk and fears alongside values and priorities. Right? While this certainly isn’t exclusively true for parents, those of us with kids have suffered with them, intensely, and have been desperate for ways to give them the experiences they love and need and have missed the most. I have empathized with parents for whom the first urgency was to get their kids to school in person, or to their sport activities, or to sleep-away camp this summer. For our family, that thing we were most eager for as our kid’s parents was travel.

clockwise: Teotihuacán, our canal boat in Scotland (both in 2018), the view from our Athens hotel, trip to Spain (both in 2019): We love travel!

Nevertheless, there’s a whole list of criteria, even just one of which would’ve made us pull the plug on this trip. David and I talk a lot about the many variables that had to align, and how amazing it is that they did. This is true of any trip or highly anticipated family event, but so much more heightened and high-stakes-feeling during these times. So our conversations since arriving here often alternate between, “Thank god we made it here when we did” and “Were we crazy to do this?” We’ve also all confessed that we thought it was never going to happen.

Infection rates have (again) gotten worse since we’ve been in France, which raises all of our doubts, anxieties and fears. At least the Health Pass has now been extended to dining establishments here. As dystopian as it is to be asked “Have you been vaccinated?” or to have a QR code scanned upon arriving at a restaurant, it’s also reassuring. And we have not seen anyone not comply, much less yell or assault an employee for doing their job.

This restaurant had signs for the Health Pass everywhere.

Good thing we’d gotten those QR codes when we did, too, because in the past week they’ve become a lot harder to obtain. More testing tents, with longer lines, have popped up in places. Some places routinely scan our codes, some simply ask as though to cover their bases, because there is enforcement. At one place where we ate, the kind server asked us a little timidly whether we’d be able to produce a Health Pass, and accepted our verbal yes as good enough. Inside, there were plain-clothes folks with an orange armband that said Police on it; soon, they were going table to table, asking diners to produce proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test within the past 48 hours. Can you imagine something like this happening in the US? (One place didn’t seem to be doing anything (we got out of there pretty fast); I wonder if they’ll soon be visited by the orange-arm-banded police?)

part of an email David received from the US Embassy in France re: applying for the Health Pass. The process has gotten harder since we obtained ours pretty easily from a pharmacy weeks ago.

Unlike the B&B hosts, everyone else we have met throughout our stay in this country has been courteous, warm, welcoming. We ended up at a wonderful hotel in Bayeux, and our days in Normandy were unforgettable in many good ways. Our time in France this summer is coming to an end, and soon we get to face mandate controversies at home. I also have a feeling I’m not done hearing the “well if you were so concerned for your child, maybe you shouldn’t have taken him to Europe” retort. We still don’t know whether we were wrong to do this, and we won’t know until after we’ve been home for a while. Right now, we’re still so very glad we did.

the wonderful Hotel D’Argouges in Bayeux!
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