It’s normal to be wary of what is foreign, so we understood completely when our friends questioned this trip to Europe. But Covid-wise, we feel very safe here. We are asked for our “passe sanitaire,” or vaccination certificate, at every restaurant, museum, and theater, even outdoors. (This is a QR code on our phones, but they like our cardboard ones too.) Everybody wears a mask indoors or risks one of those disapproving Gallic callouts complete with frown, or at worst, a bevy of waiters running towards you to block the door.
I love President Macron’s sensible vaccination passport idea: “Skip the vaccine if you want, but we won’t let you go anywhere fun.” That is so sensible. There is a much more laid back atmosphere here about Covid: people get vaccinated, wear masks, and carry on.
We’re in a new neighborhood for us, on the Left Bank just across the Seine from Notre Dame. We have a terrific view of her, and her scaffolding, and most impressive, a crane twice the height of the cathedral that moves things around by day, and stands tall and lit like a light sabre by night. It’s our night light, in fact. It’s one of those places where you can be indoors and still feel like you’re outdoors, because the street is lively 20 hours a day.
Since we spend so much of our time sitting in cafes and eating, it was thrilling to find bistros in abundance all around us, most of them cheaper than those in Portland. Still, we eat at home a lot because it’s hard to resist the morning markets with their fresh melons, amazing baguettes, roast chicken, and a host of yummy things with melted cheese on top.
But we don’t just eat. We’ve done things. The wonderful Musee de Carnavelet has reopened and we went to see an exhibit of Henri Cartier-Bresson photos of Paris in the ’40s and forward, black and white and grainy. One of the joys of this city is though people dress differently now, the streets and tall Haussmanian buildings have not changed, and ornate store fronts with painted glass are still treasured. The croissants, the baguettes, and the eclairs they buy are the same. People—alone or in twosomes or in rambunctious groups—still go to cafés to write, to think, to gossip, to flirt, and to argue about the meaning of life.
I do think that the amount of hugging and air kissing has decreased, but let’s hope that’s temporary.
We also stopped by the Arenes de Lutece, the ruins of a 2000 year-old Roman amphitheater which had been slowly buried by a cemetery, a convent, and buildings along Rue Monge. It was 1869 when a team excavating for a tram station began to uncover the stadium seating, the lion’s den, and a generous stage area. Gradually dug out and revealed, it’s now a public park that one just wanders into to eat a sandwich or meet a friend. During our visit, we were gifted with the rare appearance of two of Paris’ finest mounted police, who trotted in, looked around, and trotted out. (Police also appear on bikes, motorcycles, and in cars, but rarely on foot. Though scooters, electric and otherwise, have taken the city by storm, there are no scootered police, yet.)
Alas, already, after only eleven days here, there are many more adventures to recount. But I think I hear a café calling. Watch this space.