So long 2020!
Bonjour from Paris. It’s good to see you again.
I need to make a confession: In spite of the accounts I shared about the France lockdowns, I have not hated all of 2020. A friend who knows me well once commented I was “a pragmatist walking on the sunny side of the street.” He was right. Even as I look back at the last nine months, I find reasons to celebrate.
Sure, like you, I find plenty of reasons to turn the page, too. In 2020, like many people around the world, I lost my job and main source of income. Plans to start a new personal and professional life in my homeland after 23 years in the United States, collapsed, almost in slow motion.
I have not seen my son, who will turn 21 in January, or my Seattle friends, for almost a year. I went several months without visiting my parents in Paris for fear of infecting them and have not hugged them since March. I got diagnosed with COVID in October, two days after moving into a new Parisian apartment, a 4th-floor walk-up. For over a week, surrounded by unpacked boxes, I relied on Monoprix deliveries while self-isolating (It didn’t matter what I ate, since I had lost all sense of smell, or taste.) I had common symptoms, without complications, yet for several weeks afterwards, felt out of breath when I tackled the four floors to get back home. (To think I used to climb seven floors to my studio under Parisian rooftops almost effortlessly in the spring!) What else? I had bad hair days and a few too many apéros. I moped now and then, feeling sorry for myself, the inanity, uncertainty and injustice of it all. My glasses fogged up behind face masks (they still do.) The list goes on, and you are all too familiar with it.
Here’s a perfect metaphor for what this year felt in my Parisian life: Silent swings, empty chairs at le square des Batignolles.
Yes, so long 2020! You have overstayed your welcome.
Finding the sunny side of the street
After years of complaining about tourist crowds, noise, pollution, Parisians finally got their city back. Too bad so many decided lockdowns were best experienced outside the capital in a résidence secondaire (vacation home) somewhere en province. Since the spring, Paris has been quiet, empty at times, eerily deserted in some neighborhoods. I am lucky I don’t live in those. When restricted to one hour a day of fresh air, I prefer to see people, not just Parisian ghosts, on my way to the grocery store. A recent visit to Montmartre, on a Thursday afternoon in November, will serve as an illustration.
Not all Parisians fled the city: In between lockdowns, when we were not restricted to outings in a 1 kilometer (0.6 mile) radius, I made the most of empty Paris. Staying away from crowds – as long as you avoided public transportation and café terraces at rush hour – was easy. In the summer and fall, I wore a face mask 100% of the time while outdoors, in Paris and beyond, even before it became mandatory. I visited new exhibits and museums. It was wonderful to show up at the Catacombs, the Delacroix museum, or the Palais Galliera, a reservation in hand, with absolutely no lines. I guessed this may never happen again, and enjoyed every minute.
In the spring of 2020, I had to come up with a plan to pay the rent. Tour guiding assignments with Rick Steves Europe, (or with private clients,) vanished into thin air in a matter of weeks. There was no need to reinvent the wheel. Drawing on my corporate experience and entrepreneurial skills honed in the United States, I launched a small business, my third, France with Véro. I had shared France and French culture as a favorite hobby and creative outlet for almost a decade on this blog and on social media. There was a growing community of francophiles out there I could count on. Better yet, I anticipated there would be increased demand for quality, original content on my homeland once international travelers were grounded by drastic travel restrictions. I became a professional content creator and a virtual tour guide.
Launching a business is a lot of work. Launching a business in 2020 (when so many struggle to make it through,) might seem like a risky proposition. Still, I was in survival mode, and went for it.
I worked hard, even through the COVID episode (I learned one can wear PJ bottoms on Zoom calls while teaching or presenting, and refrain from coughing.) Ten months later, I still work hard. There was a steep learning curve, as this former public speaker and adult educator tried to master presenting and live-streaming on several online platforms, from Instagram with the weekly Apéro with Véro series, to live strolls on Facebook. There were many times when I was tempted to shout: “So long 2020!” Still, many months later, I feel good about the new skills developed along the way, connections made with francophiles around the world, and productive interactions with fellow tour guides and content creators. Mostly, I am happy about the business that kept my mind engaged through it all.
As my family and I celebrate the Holidays this month, there will be no miracles, yet I feel a mix of relief (So long 2020!) and gratefulness (Thank you for new opportunities and new friendships 2020!)
As always, I will keep looking for the sunny side of the street.
Joyeuses Fêtes ! Happy Holidays!
Thank you for supporting my creative endeavors in 2020 (and always!)
Subscribe to the France with Véro YouTube channel where over 150 videos (virtual tour replays, guided video tours, French vignettes) await, and get transported to la Belle France instantly.
A special “Merci” to my French language students and Club Members who saved the day – and quite frankly, the year – and helped me stay on the sunny side of the street.
Look up upcoming online French conversation classes here.
420 Club Members can’t be wrong: Join the France with Véro Club on Patreon and unlock rewards, including exclusive content and live events here. In the process, you support my business and help me create even more content.
Join me, as I take you around Paris and France and share lesser-told stories: Hear about my upcoming virtual tours first by signing up for la Mailing List on the blog.
Most importantly, be well. Try to stay on the sunny side of the street, too.