Bonjour from the 50th Day of my Paris confinement in the 13th arrondissement!
The past week I received the delivery of the fabric masks I ordered online, they’re very cute although I’ll need to tighten the elastic (I have a tiny head) and figure out how to wear them without fogging up my glasses. I could wear contacts, but the glasses keep me from touching my eyes. I only went outside once to pick up some food from my coop and a loaf of bread at the bakery. I’m more than happy to stay indoors right now, because even though it rained (a lot!) for two days, the pollen is still so thick I can see it on the leaves of my balcony plants. As soon as I go outside all I want to do is rub my eyes, ugh.
Speaking of my balcony plants, so far I have harvested five cherry tomatoes and one strawberry. Fred brought me a new mint plant (the last one died of “mint rust”) and an amazing-smelling potted jasmine that I bring inside when I can’t leave the window open for the scent to waft in.
Aside from my day job and trying to keep my plants alive, I’ve been (still) working on my new website. I want to keep as much of the older content as possible because it’s a nice record of how Paris has changed in 20 years, but aside from updating (or removing) dead links, there’s the tricky issue of photos. I take crappy photos on a good day, but even I’ve been dismayed at how many of the images taken before 2010 (when I finally got a smartphone with a half decent camera) are tiny and blurry. This is actually one of the better ones from a 2006 post about the Passage des Panoramas:
So I’ve been spending waaaay too much time searching my photo archives for better versions. Sometimes I find them right away, sometimes an hour goes by and even though I KNOW I’ve taken dozens of photos of a specific Parisian monument over the years, I just can’t find a good one, and I can’t go out to take a new one. Do yourselves a favor and always tag or label your photos! Your future selves will thank you.
Deconfinement Phase 1: No One is Happy
In Coronavirus news, France is in full swing preparations for the first phase of deconfinement set for May 11th, however this being France there has to be debate. Some argue the May 11th date is too early to start sending young kids back to school (including over 300 mayors in Ile de France), that there won’t be enough masks for everyone to start taking public transit again, and that the French are already getting too lax in observing the required physical distancing as it is. The entire Ile de France region (which is made up of seven departments including Paris) is in the “red zone”, meaning that hospitals are still at their limit of hospital beds, even though there has been a steady decline in the number of patients on life support for the 24th day in a row. Despite this, others argue the first phase is still too strict, and that people should be allowed to walk in the forests like Fontainebleau, even though it’s in a “red department”, even if it’s within the allowed 100km limit of travel from your home. The wet, spring weather will probably keep Parisians from misbehaving too much over the next week, but if they don’t, the government can potentially push back the date for our limited freedom even further.
Support Your Favorite Bar & Bistro
Restaurants and bars are still closed at least through June 2nd, but if you want to support your local, you can pre-purchase your next bottle of wine or dinner menu at a discounted price on the website J’Aime mon Bistrot: https://www.jaimemonbistrot.fr/
Get Moving on Those Home Improvement Projects
When this is all over and you can start welcoming your friends and family back into your home, you might want something to show for your weeks of confinement besides a noticeable sag in your sofa cushions. Some of the DIY shops in Paris are open with the same physical distancing rules as in supermarkets, like Castorama in the 15th and Leroy Merlin in the 12th, while others like Bricorama in the 13th require you to order what you want online before coming to the store to pick it up. One thing is for sure: don’t count on a speedy delivery for any purchases, you’re better off just showing up and waiting in line to get it yourself (bring a book).
Avoid Public Transport Unless Absolutely Necessary
The metro, bus, RER and tram system will be running at 100% starting May 11th, but to avoid spreading the virus, half of the seats will be off-limits (with stickers to remind passengers), including on the platforms. Masks will be obligatory (and distributed to those without at the info desk) and hand sanitizer dispensers are being installed, but if only half of the usual number of people can take public transport at any given time, then only those who absolutely need to get to work should use it. Everyone else is encouraged to continue working from home, to avoid rush hour, or to use the new “RER Vélo”, 650km of bike lanes opened up to follow the nine major train and metro routes into the center of Paris: https://rerv.fr/
ARTE Concerts & Shows Free Online
If you’re still looking for some screen entertainment, the multilingual cultural TV station ARTE has publishing its collection of music concerts, opera performances, and other televised shows online for free during the lockdown. A bit like Netflix, the catalog changes regularly so what’s there now will be gone tomorrow. You can search by category or style of music. I’ve seen Areosmith live in Japan, Joan Baez Live in Paris, Alt-J, Yann Tiersen’s new album release party (if you don’t recognize the name, he did the music for the film Amélie), Hellfest performances, and the 41st Annual World Circus Festival: https://www.arte.tv/en/arte-concert/
Google’s Virtual Guide to France
We’re still nowhere close to opening up the country to tourism, but you can use Google’s Arts & Culture site to start planning your next escape, whether it’s to Paris or elsewhere in France. There’s not much practical info, but a great place to surf the photos and explore the 360° images Google has taken of all the major sites, including inside monuments! And since there are no humans in the images, you can enjoy the views without someone’s selfie stick blocking your shot. One of my favorite views is this one over the rooftops of five famous Parisian monuments (use your mouse to move the camera around): https://artsandculture.google.com/story/walk-around-5-iconic-parisian-rooftops/nwISWA6wXt3HKA
Keep dreaming, and keep confining until we’re in the clear! – Heather