Monthly Archives: August 2021

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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Parisian Summer, part 3

Well folks, we went to Disneyland Paris. I confess I’d always wanted to go since it opened in 1992. Finally, with a long stay here, it felt less embarrassing to make a case for a couple of days of Le Tacky Entertainment.

First, I expected Disneyland Paris to be very Frenchified compared to the parks in the US. It was and it wasn’t.

It was in language, obviously. So much fun hearing Jack Sparrow, C3PO, and Buzz Lightyear all speaking French! I have no idea how well all the puns we heard in English translated, though. There was an entire section dedicated to the movie Ratatouille, with an adorable ride, as well as a few other rides that aren’t in the US. Other Europeanized elements were the types of soda offered (a lot less sugary), and maybe more of the snack bars offered crepes and waffles than we’d find in the US.

C3PO is fluent in millions of languages 🙂

Perhaps you’ve heard that the French turn their noses up at all things Disney and at having a Disney park in their country? Well that was definitely not our experience! A good nine out of ten people around us were French, and boy did they love their merch! Some were dressed in head-to-toe Disney stuff, and I literally mean head to toe: hats & headbands, shoes, and backpacks. It was Mickey-ear everything, Stitch was hugely popular, and there were lots and lots of little girls in princess dresses (Lord help us, I only saw one dressed as Rey Skywalker).

sign @ Pirates of the Caribbean

Also? The food was crap! Ugh. Mostly burgers and fried chicken. After days of eating gloriously in Paris, I had somehow hoped that Disneyland Paris had a higher standard than American Disney parks, but hell no, my friends. What is up with that? One night we had dinner at a place that served hotdogs and chicken nuggets, where the staff was dressed like baseball players, and they sold Budweiser beer. The place was just off Main Street USA. I looked all around me at the décor and vibe, and it struck me that many people there had probably never been to the US. To them, that was probably representative of what the United States is like. Oof. Surreal and disconcerting. A lot to unpack.

Distancing signs on the floor were everywhere. Some people followed them, many did not.

Regarding the Travel in the Time of Covid? Masks were required at all times including outdoors, and compliance was once again decent. One thing that was frustrating was a lack of opportunities to sit outside for meals. The hotel we chose had a bunch of tables outside, but didn’t allow guests to eat breakfast there. <eye roll> We therefore decided to get our breakfast through room service, as we were told it was included in what we’d already paid for it, and we’d only have to pay whatever went over the pre-paid amount. That did not turn out to be the case, and we ended up paying surprise surcharges just so we could avoid eating indoors around unmasked guests. This has become a bigger challenge given the cool, rainy weather in this part of France lately, but it’s an area where we’re pretty inflexible so it requires a lot of creative thinking and picnic meals on our own. More on that in another post.

The crazy expensive breakfast did come with all these jams that I then brought back to our flat. I showed them!
Besides, it provided enough food that we were able to pack a picnic lunch (with a few snacks added).

Verdict? It was frustrating, it was problematic, and we had a blast! Fun, just fun. All of this is privilege, obviously, including the ability to judge and express frustration and be able to find alternatives (in some cases at an additional cost). Privilege. All of it. No whining allowed, only fun. So that’s what we did.

passing the time in a line
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