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Oh, dear… I typed around 16 different opening lines for this blog post about Paris after the Covid-19 lockdown, but one sounded worse than the other. I just couldn’t come up with anything that didn’t sound super dramatic in a “we survived the apocalypse” way, or that suggested being locked in for 55 days, eating pizza, and watching Netflix is the worst thing ever. But I obviously don’t want to trivialize people’s pain and struggle neither because I know it is very real during these difficult Corona times.
I will just stick with the facts: Paris strict Covid-19 confinement rules got lifted today, after 55 days.
However, everything is very far (to the moon and back kinda far) from being normal. I read the other day “The Covid-19 pandemic isn’t over, there are just free spots in ICUs again”. And I believe this is very accurate.
But if we stick to the facts: I know nothing. For educated and scientific information and recommendation about the Coronavirus consult publications from people that are experts in their fields!
But do read on if you want to know about how Paris felt today and how I spent this very first day after the complete lockdown.
Paris on Day 1 of deconfinement
I didn’t plan to change my confinement routine today. Let alone heading to the center of Paris! I was rather convinced that we continue to stay inside for at least 3 more weeks, and if it was just to demonstrate responsible behavior.
But I woke up and felt very unsettled and nervous. Like something was about to happen, and I couldn’t figure out what. I was irritated and quite anxious.
Following a very sudden inspiration, I took a Velib (a shared bike service) and set off for a solo cycle trip through Paris.
Mask on, of course, hydro alcoholic gel ready.
Disclaimer: that post is very raw and describes my experience from today. I am sure there were spots in Paris that were crowded and probably as well some ugly scenes. But that wasn’t my experience.
I cycled 17 km through Paris. I passed by the Eiffel Tower, the Quais along the Seine, Rue de Rivoli, Louvre, the Île de la Cité, Saint Michel and Saint Germain and then back home by Rue de Rennes and Montparnasse.
It felt so good to be out again, and I was riding my bike mostly smiling at everyone that crossed my way. I hope they saw it through my mask.
How was the mood in Paris after Covid-19 confinement?
It was unreal.
And as if it was never different.
Admittedly, I haven’t been to the Paris center for the past 2 months. Consequently, I don’t know how a REALLY empty Paris looks like. But I was very -positive- surprised how few people were out in town today.
I expected that everyone and their dog would storm out into town and enjoy their newly won liberty, buy whatever they can, and for the sake of it. But they didn’t.
I went to Sephora and even though it was peak hour, I was the only client in the entire store! You are obliged to wear a mask when entering and are friendly asked to use hand disinfection gel.
However, generally many little boutiques, books shop, shoe stores, and toy shops were open. And so were many hairdressers and nail salons. But big stores like FNAC, Zara, H&M, etc. were closed and big malls as well.
I’d say the majority of people wore masks and kept their distance. However, masks are obligatory now if you want to ride the Metro or other public transportation, and they were given out for free by many communities.
I was also very surprised how few people were on the Seine river banks. I expected people to be squatting the banks like they usually do on sunny days, but it was almost deserted. As were the streets – I have never seen so few cars in Paris!
It was just very uncommonly quiet. Even though folks were having walks, doing errands, and cycled, the typical Parisian flair was somehow missing.
I was thinking about what that actually even means but – for me – it comes all down to bars and cafés that are inseparably linked to Paris and that are keeping the Parisian cityscape busy.
I wonder how this will be in a few weeks. How many of the stores that were closed today will actually be closed for good? How quickly people will forget about social distancing and get back to their normal routine. Will they?
I did not edit people out from the following pictures. Nor did I wait until there was no one to take them. It’s just how it was today: