Parisian Living

Walking in Paris is Different Now

by Yvonne Hazelton Shao

Since I moved to Paris three years ago, I’ve loved walking here. When we had the strikes this winter, I walked everywhere, an hour or more across town. There is always something to see, architecture or people or dogs or parks.

Now, we’re confined to a one kilometer radius of our homes. We can only go out for exercise before 10 a.m. and after 7 p.m., for one hour. Police are stationed around the neighborhood, checking the form we filled out before leaving home, which says what time we left and what we’re doing out in the street. We avoid others by staying one meter apart, jumping off narrow sidewalks into the street to avoid getting too close. There aren’t many cars these days anyway.

Left: Empty tables and chairs sit outside a closed cafe in Paris admist the lockdown in France; Yellow writing can be seen on the windows. Right: The sun sets over beautiful Haussmann-style apartments in Paris in the late evening.
Top: Aurelien Lemasson Theobald / Above: Kate Devine

I know this is necessary. We’ll do whatever it takes to keep people healthy, to keep our health care system functional.

But it’s weird. It’s uncomfortable. Knowing that the jogger who ran by you panting might have just blown a germ into your breathing space. Wondering if that woman’s cough is hayfever or Covid-19. Half of the people out and about wear masks, so there are no smiles. You do get your exercise, but it can induce a little anxiety. 

Most days, I stay inside and do yoga or pilates. I belly dance with a video. I made a peppy 80s playlist and do aerobics all over the apartment.

But some days, I have to get outside. I walk through my little corner of the ghost town of Paris, past shuttered shops and restaurants with chairs stacked inside, their terraces blown with leaves.

Left: An empty street in Paris, with apartments lining the sides of the row. There are no cars in the street and no people on the narrow sidewalks. Right: A man smiles and claps for the healthcare workers while looking out his Paris apartment window, apartments and rooftops can be seen in the background.
Paolo Bendandi / Kasia Dietz

This morning, I went out before 10. I found a new street and passed a little cafe that was open for takeout, the entrance blocked off by stacks of chairs. The only offerings were drinks and smoothies. I ordered a smoothie. While the barista cut up the fruit, I looked around. Across the street, on the second floor (third floor for Americans) a young mother held her baby at the open window, watching people go by. 

Now, normally, French people are quite reserved. Aside from the obligatory politenesses, they avoid each other. But this baby and I made eye contact from twenty yards away, and I did something I never do in France.

I waved.

Left: A woman, out of focus, leans out her window holding a glass of wine in the evening; behind her, Parisian apartments are visible, Right: Light reflects on Parisian apartments on a sunny afternoon.
Kate Devine

The baby smiled. The mother smiled. She held up the baby’s arm and waved it back at me. I waved again, grinning like an idiot. The mother waved the baby’s arm at me again.

Then the baby got it. She waved back at me, without her mom’s help. The mom and I smiled at each other, delighted, and we waved at each other. The baby chuckled and laughed and the mother and I laughed and waved. We kept it up until my smoothie was ready, then waved our final goodbyes. I sipped my smoothie walking home, still smiling. 

It was a human connection, one of the few non-video encounters I’ve had lately.

We will get through this. We will see our friends and our families again. We’ll eat and drink together, we’ll go to each other’s homes, we’ll hold hands and watch a movie. 

Until then, enjoy every connection you make, no matter how small.

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Written by Yvonne Hazelton Shao for HiP Paris. Looking to travel? Check out Haven In for a  fabulous vacation rental in Paris, France or Italy. Looking to rent long-term or buy in France or Italy? Ask us! We can connect you to our trusted providers for amazing service and rates.

Written By

Yvonne Hazelton Shao

Yvonne Shao is an American writer living in Paris. She blogs at Escaping the Empty Nest. View Yvonne Hazelton Shao's Website

10 comments on “Walking in Paris is Different Now

This is so hard! But, this is so beautifully written and touching, thank you! – Janice

Thanks for sharing your walking story! I live in NYC and visit Paris twice a year, staying with friends in the 11th. I returned from my last trip February 15th. I miss Paris more than ever and I hope things improve soon. There are so many things which I love about Paris but walking is at the top of my list. I have visited Paris over 24 times and never tire of walking there.
Best to you,
Andrew

Thanks for writing in Andrew. I hope you are safe and healthy along with family and loved ones too. I, too, really hope things improve soon! And my favorite thing is Paris is walking too (along with food, views, light)….Stay safe! -Erica

J’ai bien aimé ce petit moment des mains agitées, et le sourire du
bébé…il va apprendre l’accueil américain!

I loved this blog – it made me smile picturing the baby catching on & waving and made me feel good about interactions and human contact.

🙂 Thanks for sharing!

i love your emails…i love everything about what you say and you want us to know about my favorite country…hope you are well…keep up the amazing work.

Enjoyed your post this morning. I so can relate to the human connection with the baby and her mom. It gives you that feel good connection that brings in smile inside of you.
Thank you for passing that feeling a long.

Ah…so true. I turn around and wave to the bus driver and he waves back when I get off. I’ve read bus drivers are depressed from lack of people contact. Not many take buses these days even if they are free, but I had to go to the bank.. A nice encounter in a day of no contact except the pigeons out my window…

Thank you Yvonne for a truely beautiful, poignant article. I can see you in the street waving at that baby and the reticent mum getting into the swing of that needed human connections. A great read!

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