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.
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.
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.
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.