Paris lockdown swans

Paris lockdown: Life in a triangle

Paris Lockdown: parameters

Week 2 of le confinement (it always sounds so much better in French!) is wrapping up. My life, these days, is much smaller: Hours go by within a few blocks in a quiet, (too quiet) neighborhood in the French capital’s outskirts. I used to show tour groups and visitors around the city for a living, maneuvering swiftly and safely through crowds from one landmark, or iconic neighborhood, to the next. These days, there are three landmarks, or parameters, in my new life: The Parisian studio, “the 7th Heaven,” where I spend most of my time. The streets where I walk about twice a week to shop for food and essentials at the few stores that remain open. Finally, le Bois de Vincennes, where so many most excellent adventures and workouts take place year round. This was then, this is now: I can use my daily exercise allowance there for less than an hour before returning indoors for the rest of the day. My Parisian life used to be a matrix of interconnected streets, metro lines, landmarks, parks and gardens. Because of the Paris lockdown, it’s turned into a triangle. (Photo: The new normal: “Thank you for keeping a safe distance. Three people maximum in the boutique. Merci.”)

Paris lockdown Sign

le Bois de Vincennes

My favorite corner of the triangle. There’s a reason le Bois de Vincennes and le Bois de Boulogne, sitting on either side of the French capital, have been known as “the green lungs of Paris” since the 19th century. That’s when emperor Napoleon III officially attached both expansive green spaces, once royal hunting grounds also used for logging, to the city. He meant to offer them to Parisians, as civilized strolling grounds. During the Paris lockdown, I can’t use my favorite trails and disappear deep inside the wooded areas, or the beautiful Parc Floral (part of the Botanical Gardens of Paris,) for hours anymore. I still head to a small, empty section of le Bois at the end of my street every morning. There, nature is oblivious to the dramatic and stupefying events unfolding in Paris and around the world: Thanks to nature, the show is going on. The Canadian geese have returned, fighting loudly, as majestic swans, ducks and other creatures glide along a small lake. Yesterday, I spotted the first fluffy ducklings swimming around, their small legs furiously batting in the clear water to keep up with their mom. On the trees, I spot trail markings, taunting me.

Paris lockdown: streets and shops

This dedicated observer of urban life catches herself noticing more details than usual on her way to the store, a plaque on a façade, an arresting architectural ornament on an Art Nouveau building. So close to downtown Paris, in an urban area (where all traffic seems to have come to a sudden halt,) I peek longingly at a few homes where – I imagine – the Paris lockdown must be a little more bearable. La vie de village. Village life.

When I can, I patronize small businesses. I buy fresh produce at le Primeur around the corner. For everything else, I head to the Parisian’s Mecca: Monoprix. I was pleasantly surprised they offered a delivery service or a second option “le Click and Collect” (everything sounds so much cooler in English!) During the Paris lockdown, you can click all you want: You will only collect frustration. The local Monoprix is swamped. If you want to eat, you need to hoof it, wear gloves, and a mask if available (the French government keeps telling us regular folks don’t need them. I may do the same if I had not planned ahead to order enough supplies for the whole country.) As I pick up the items on my list as quickly as possible, dodging other customers in the challenging exercise of social distancing, I still smile while looking at the store’s shelves…

Meanwhile, at the “7th Heaven”

I have grown quite fond of the 20 square meter (265 square foot) studio I have called home since I relocated to France a year ago. It may be small, yet it’s also bright and peaceful (the next-door neighbor moved out during the Holidays.) When I return from shopping, feeling like Jeremiah Johnson after he survived yet another winter in the Rocky Mountains, I unpack supplies and try to make it all fit inside my diminutive fridge, freezer, and pantry. The windowsill comes in handy! A small victory these days: returning home with a prized item, a pack of toilet paper.

I need more than a few laps around a pretty lake and counting toilet paper rolls to keep myself busy and sane. I need to create new income streams, too: This week has been a big one at the French Girl in Seattle HQ, under Parisian rooftops. After being a beloved hobby and creative outlet for almost a decade, a blog and a Facebook community have turned into a business overnight, with new services including online French classes and a Patreon program offering more exclusive Paris and France content to francophiles around the world. I even launched a Life-streaming event series on Instagram over the weekend! Jeremiah Johnson would be proud.

Paris Lockdown Announcement

We may come out of this with bad hairstyles, a few extra pounds, and an increased addiction to WiFi and social media. One thing’s for certain: The sun will rise tomorrow morning, and the morning after that, above the 7th Heaven.

A bientôt.

You, too, can help build the new French Girl in Seattle on Patreon Thank you for your support.

All photos taken (quickly!) with an iPhone 6S

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What did you think about this article? Let me know in the comment section below, (I love reading your messages and reply to most.) Don’t be selfish and share with a friend! Merci. Véronique (French Girl in Seattle)

32 Comments

  • Hi Vero, Enjoyed the post especially the section on le Bois de Vincennes. The area of Saint Mande and Le Bois de Vincennes is one I want to explore on my next visit. I’m sure I may have mentioned that my grandmother as a child lived at 3 rue de Parc. I’m sure she and her siblings played in the park.

    Looking forward to next week’s Apero with Vero. It’s such a great way to lighten ones spirits. Also anxious to hear more about the French lessons.

    Bonne nuit.
    Camilla

    • Veto, my step-daughter is the calmest person I know and when I mentioned that to her…..her reply was “I think that is my super power”. Well, it’s your super power also Vero!
      You have amazing skill at living whatever life throws at you in less that 300 sq ft. Everyone enjoys your travel adventures but we enjoy your PARIS 7th floor living also. Keep on keeping on. 🥰 Karolyn from Seattle

      • Merci beaucoup Karolyn. That’s a very kind (and encouraging) thing to say. I will accept your compliment gratefully and am happy to know I have at least one “superpower,” adaptability. I owe it, certainly, to my parents: Moving every four or five years around France as my brother and I were growing up taught us two things 1. Change happens in life 2. You can make the best of it and thrive. Stay safe in Seattle. Thanks again.

  • For the Apéro with Véro event, the circle you mentioned-is that the one with your photo? I was so sad to miss the first meeting-had my wine ready, but could not connect, sigh. Hope I figure it out by next week!

    • Bonjour Deborah.Thank you for stopping by. Don’t worry about the next episode of “Apéro with Véro:” I will send some details and instructions about how to connect before the end of the week. You will figure it out! A bientôt.

  • Bonjour!
    You are posting some lovely photos as usual.
    It all helps with the confinement, or cloistering, as I call it.
    Stay well.

    • Bonjour Véro,
      I think I wrote you before that my husband & I were fortunate enough to be in Paris the week before le confinement.We did spend that last Saturday evening there believing we were going to be having to stay for another month as our flights home kept getting cancelled. So, we ran over to our nearby Franprix at close to 10 that night to pick up some last minute supplies, just in case. As we ended up getting a flight, we gave our groceries to a friend of ours, but kept the toilet paper and took it home with us. Who knew it would turn out to be my favorite souvenir of this trip!
      I am very interested in French lessons. Where can I get more information, and do you know what levels you will be teaching?
      Merçi,
      Mary

      • Bonjour Mary. You win the “best planner” award. Back in the days, you’d hear stories about American tourists packing TP and light bulbs (!) before their trips to France and Europe. You know it’s a different world out there when Americans bring a TP supply back home at the end of a trip! 😉 All information about my upcoming online French lessons are on this website under… (drum roll) “Online French Lessons.” Email me with questions if you have any! A bientôt.

  • Véro, thank you for helping me keep my mind off the virus!! I’m trying to remember my time in Paris in 1975. We got off the Métro at Vincennes, and the student dormitory (CISP) was on Avenue Jean Jaures. Does this still exist? I was introduced to French toilet paper here!🤔

    • Bonjour Marcelle. I had to look this up to answer you. The student dormitory is still there. It is called “la cité de la Musique” and seems to be reserved for students of the prestigious “Conservatoire national supérieur de musique et de danse de Paris.” — By French TP, I am assuming you mean the pink colored rolls? 😉

  • Bravo Véro! You are helping keep yourself and the rest of us sane. 😉
    So happy for you that you have the lovely Bois de Vincennes, even if you’re time there is limited.
    À bientôt!

    • I am glad to hear it, Stephanie! Writing helps keep me sane too. Yes, I will always have le Bois de Vincennes, even if I can’t walk very far inside, (and am sticking to the outskirts,) or stay there for too long, these days. Le Bois de Vincennes, like the mighty château nearby, has seen – and survived – a lot worse than this. It comforts me to remind myself of that. A bientôt.

  • Good for you to make the most of the situation. A good friend is having a rough time of it, being in a 20m2 studio with a two-year-old. They go to the building’s courtyard, but one day, she said, he just melted down that he wanted to go OUTSIDE. So difficult. He seems to catch every germ and then share with his mother, so she is being very cautious. I wish I could take them in here, but my husband is ill (cancer, not coronavirus), so we are going nowhere and seeing nobody.
    I do go out for long walks in the garrigue. I exceed the official limit but I don’t think there will be any contrôle in the middle of nowhere. I have yet to encounter another human on my walks, even before confinement.

    • Bonjour. Thank you for stopping by and leaving a thoughtful comment, as you often do. I am sorry to hear about your husband. It must be particularly difficult to go through this right now. I am happy you live outside an urban area where you have more freedom (and space) to stretch your legs and get a break from it all. I feel sorry for your friend and consider myself lucky I do not have a young child (or a pet) to take care of right now, in my diminutive Parisian abode, as I launch a new small business. I keep an eye on loved ones here in France, and on my son, who lives in the United States as much as I can. We are all doing our best to navigate these unchartered waters and challenging times. Wishing you strength and sending big hugs. A bientôt.

  • Dear Veronique,

    You are awsome; You deserve respect and admiration for your entrepreneurship and skils l . Certainly you help me improve my English dramatically. I like now listen to your top oral sessions. I very much savour your American English with a lilt of a French Norman accent . I wish you much success. Best regards .Rémy C

  • What a wonderful post, pictures, words, the good and the less pleasant but shared in such a way as not to be depressing, but a realistic look at life in today’s world. Not only are you keeping yourself sane, you’re doing the same for a lot of people around the world. They turn to your pictures and words to lift their spirits. À bientôt

  • Bonjour Véro:
    I too very much enjoyed your Apéro hour on Sat. and look forward to joining you again. I have been following your blog for many years as well as a few others. I have to say that yours is the one I will always come back to because you have a talent for being engaging and positive with a good dose of humor. That is especially important during these trying times. Other bloggers have either posted as if nothing were happening or written what I call a “Debbie Downer” post. Neither of those work for me. In addition, you provide a unique perspective being French and having lived in the US for some time. Since we had planned to retire to southwestern France but circumstances required us to opt for “Plan B” (Eugene, OR), I really appreciate being able to enjoy the country through your eyes. Merci beaucoup for sharing your French life and experiences! Take care. A bientôt.

  • Bonjour Véro,
    Loved your blog and photos. Our parks are closed because of overcrowding, but we do have the streets so we can be out and about. I have seen neighbors walking by that I have never met( keeping the appropriate distance).

    • All Parisian city parks and gardens are closed too. It’s harder to close giant green spaces like le Bois de Vincennes (2.5 times the size of Central Park!) It’s not fenced in, of course. I suspect most trails inside le Bois are deserted right now, but sections off main streets continue to get used by les Riverains (locals) when they need to stretch their legs. Most people respect social distancing. If you go early, as I do, nobody’s there. Be well Joyce!

  • Great storytelling as always and wonderful photos. I’m especially fond of those secret gardens and never pass by an opened door!

  • Bonjour Vero!
    I enjoy all that you post! May I ask.. what does, “Cou-cou” mean in greeting someone? I think I spelled it correctly (?) I live in Huntington Beach, California. I also like when you wrote you quickly took the photos with your cell…is it not polite to take photos inside a store? Merciiiii♥️

    • Bonjour Susan! Thank you for stopping by. “Coucou” is an informal French greeting best reserved for friends. It does not really mean anything except: “Hi,” and it’s very friendly. It probably originated as a way to imitate the little bird that comes out of cuckoo clocks and says “Coucou! Coucou!” 😉 As for photos, the French can be very protective of their image (and French laws support them.) Always more polite – and smarter – not to stick your camera in a French person’s face (or their kids’) without asking first. Some tourists have found that out the hard way. I mentioned my photos were taken quickly because we can’t spend too much time outside these days, and are only supposed to go out to run essential errands or to exercise. I tend to focus on the “exercise” part when I can. I hope this helps.

  • Bonjour Vero – It is a beautiful day in the PNW, time for my daily walk which helps keep me sane. I so enjoy your posts and your good humor. These are such extraordinary and scary times. God willing, I would love to visit le Bois de Vincennes, it is beautiful.
    Take care and stay well.
    A bientot – Cherie

    • Bonjour Chérie. God willing, I will be the one showing you around le Bois de Vincennes when you return, mon amie. We may even chat in French, just like we did at the French Studio, years ago, to see how much you remember of our lessons. 😉 Big hug to you, Steve, and Vero/Coco of course. A bientôt.

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