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