confined Paris

Confined Paris: digging deep to the happy vibes

In confined Paris, week 5 is wrapping up. Are we there yet? No, not yet. Not even close. A tentative date for le déconfinement (the end of the lockdown) has been set to May 11. People around me, in social media mostly, seem to think that on May 11, all of Paris will rush outside, a picnic basket in hand, white sneakers dusted up, sunglasses ready to shine, as we all pick a perfect spot and lay our blanket for a much-awaited picnic on the cobbled stones by the Seine river, or on the grassy slopes of les Buttes Chaumont.

Meanwhile, travelers are chomping at the bit, ready to book that flight to, or out of, Paris. Many may be disappointed. There’s no knowing right now what life is going to be like the week after May 11, or the week after that. Still, I understand where these perpetual optimists are coming from. Life as we knew it, good or bad, vanished weeks ago. After a deluge of anxiety-provoking news, many, these days, have to dig deep to convince themselves that it will be all right.

confined Paris
“From tonight on, your boulangerie is closed indefinitely”

Confined Paris: feeling envious

By now, it’s clear: Not all confinement conditions are created equal. It’s not a coincidence if over 200,000 Parisian (11% of the population downtown,) allegedly fled the French capital and the big bad virus, before the lockdown started at the end of March. They flocked to la province to stay at their résidence secondaire (vacation home,) or with relatives, in peaceful corners of la Belle France. The media reported this massive exodus had not always gone down well with locals, neither willing or prepared to welcome travelers, especially “les Parigots.” Personally, I understand why some city dwellers would consider riding this out in places where space and fresh air are not at a premium.

Trending tune in confined Paris: “Beam me up, Scotty!”

As I go around the block on my approved, one-hour stroll (or exercise session,) permission slip carefully updated just in case, I fight to suppress envy, as I spot others enjoying lunch, or part of the afternoon “al fresco” in confined Paris. On my walks, I pay close attention to building façades, and mentally rate the different architectural styles featured in my elegant neighborhood. I am a tough grader. Haussmannian buildings? They may have helped turn Paris into a modern, elegant, soon to become iconic city in the 19th century. Today, I see their symmetry and uniformity for what it is: the land of useless balconies, aka: a waste of perfectly good outdoor space. Unless you are a size 0 (or -1?) and agree to eating your lunch American-style (standing,) forget working on that tan for hours, as you lounge behind the crafted lattice work. Post-Haussmannian architects could be similarly oblivious to our most basic needs. And do you know how much these palaces go for on the real estate market? — Pass.

Meanwhile, others get it right: It’s as if some buildings bent over backwards – outwards, in this case – to accommodate your {diminutive} bistro set. May they be thanked.

Confined Paris: focusing on the beautiful

Easy to do, most of the time: The weather has never been so perfect. We have enjoyed week after week of sunny days, mild (to hot!) temps to cheer us on – or taunt us? – as we spend most of our time well… confined. Nature is putting on quite the show, providing inspiration, comfort, and the perfect frame, showcasing details on dreamy Parisian buildings.

Visiting my dream house

About a year ago, when I moved back to this special corner of the Parisian woods, I found my dream house. I didn’t realize right away how perfect it was, yet I do now. When I stretch my legs around the neighborhood, or when runnings errands, I follow a detour through le Bois de Vincennes just to walk past it because it makes me smile.

That house is the epitomy of the popular, yet short-lived Art Nouveau style, that took architecture, interior design and the graphic arts by storm at the turn of the 20th century: It’s graceful, evoking curves of the female body, details highlighted with cheerful colors and blue ceramic on the façade. An architect designed and built the house for himself over 115 years ago, as he worked in the Paris area. His name was Victor Francione. I looked him up but did not find much information about him. All I know is that he had excellent taste, and created my dream home, complete with a perfect roof-top terrace overlooking le Bois de Vincennes. I hope whoever is confined there now appreciates the privilege of living in such special quarters. I am grateful to them for taking care of the property until I move the worldwide headquarters of French Girl in Seattle Takes France there.

Confined Paris: Life could be worse

In spite of everything, I realize I am lucky to be confined in a country that has been thoughtful enough to consider boulangeries, pâtisseries, or fromageries “essential businesses.” As such, they remain open. There are long lines outside every morning, people respectfully waiting, (Are you sure? in France?) about five feet apart, to buy their baguette and croissant. After spending more than two decades in the United States, I don’t need a baguette every day. When I do make it out, and order une tradition (pas trop cuite,) or une baguette aux céréales, I tend to pick a snack to enjoy later that afternoon, for le goûter. Pourquoi pas? Why not? I do climb 7 floors and 126 stairs to get back to the “7th Heaven” for extra exercise!

To be honest, I am still not used to interacting with the friendly boulangère, as she wears a mask on her face, or to talk to her across a giant plastic sheet stretched across the counter to protect the boulangerie staff. I don’t know that I ever will. We still exchange greetings and small talk, as we used to. Above the mask, I can see the smile in her eyes, as she says, “Bonne journée, à bientôt.

Oui, à bientôt.

Parting words…

A grounded tour guide (for now!) I am finding new ways to share my passion for France while interacting with an ever-growing community of Paris and France lovers. If you have enjoyed this story, the exclusive content I create daily on the French Girl in Seattle Facebook page, or on Instagram Live every Saturday (“Apéro with Véro,”) consider supporting me on Patreon.

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Véronique (French Girl in Seattle)

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9 Comments

  • A wonderful tour of beautiful Vincinnes. Love seeing the architecture and flowers, and your commentary brought it all to life. Merci beaucoup.
    The original post of your pain au raisin made me so “hungry for Paris” that we made an early morning trip to the French boulangerie in Portland, OR to “take out” four to give to a friend who was having a confined birthday. We sat out on their patio in the sun, safely distanced, and relished every delicious bite!

  • The hospital here has just 11 intensive care beds. This is one big reason why locals don’t want a flood of Parisians.
    I totally agree on balconies. I had one in Brussels that was barely big enough to stand. Of course, there it rains 300+ days of the year, so who needs a balcony. But really, architects and developers must realize that people need a little spot to be outside, and not just in parks.

    • Bonjour Catherine. Great point about hospital beds, and that’s a familiar situation, sadly, all over “la province.” Glad you agree about balconies. In a way, as a future real estate investor in Paris (or in another city,) I am grateful the current crisis has helped me refine “criteria” when the time to buy my own place comes along. Wishing you fortitude and sunny days dans le Midi. A bientôt.

  • I was nodding my head along in agreement about the “useless balconies” when it suddenly struck me: these aren’t for function, they are for fashion. Do we wear a pretty silk scarf around our neck because it is cold? A decorative belt to hold up our pants? No, we do it to add a little ooh la la to our otherwise somewhat plain and drab outfit. While the roomier balconies would of course be preferable, I am “seeing the beauty” and newly appreciating the accessorizing of these Haussmann buildings. 🙂 ~ Michelle

    • Bonjour Michelle. Loved your comment (being an accessory lover myself.) I realize Haussmann had aesthetics in mind when he designed his buildings, one illustration is the way he balanced the use of intricate railings on only two floors originally (the second one, the most desirable one, and the fifth floor,) to create more visual appeal and balance. My comment was a bit tongue-in-cheek, but make no mistake: Many Parisians stuck behind those narrow balconies, glorified window-sills, really, are feeling the pain (and some frustration) right now. A bientôt.

  • Ah, it is lovely Vero. Thank you for sharing beautiful Paris with us. And for being honest and sincere. Every day I try and count my blessings – healthy family, a comfortable, though not fancy home in Central Florida (where the weather has been very nice for most of la confinement), extra time to work on the projects around the house, time to garden, (space to garden!) and that everyone in our family – including 5 adult children, and spouses – have managed to stay healthy and employed!!

    But still, …. as the date rapidly approaches on the calendar (April 29) when I had planned to return to lovely Paris ….. *Le sigh* Yes, we all have to dig deep occasionally. We will find a way. So I too dream and plan and hope. That is the thread that connects us all. We must continue to dream. And plan. And hope!!! Someday…..

    A bientôt, Mon Ami. ❤️❤️

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