Left: an aerial view of a cup of coffee on a table. The coffee is blurry and out of focus and there are several pink flowers to the left of the frame. The largest is in focus. Right: a large window in a Parisian apartment. Other buildings are visible outside the window and to the left a cat is visible as it naps on a cushion
Top: kylarichey / Above: alchemyofagirl / deareverest

The first French confinement, back in the spring, was eight weeks long. That’s a long time for such an intense shutdown, but at first, there was a sense of novelty, a thrill of danger, and a purpose: to save lives. 

It was like when I lived in Texas, in tornado country. Every once in a while in the spring, the sky would turn green and we’d hear sirens. We’d turn off our ovens and go down to the cellar, chattering and wondering if our loved ones were safely in their cellars (or in their bathtubs or under mattresses). The wind would howl and branches would scratch across the cellar door. If it went on for any longer than fifteen minutes, we’d have a little sing-along or rifle through the assortment of cellar junk looking for snacks among the camping gear and canned goods. When it was over, we’d come out and review the damage: usually scattered tree limbs, maybe some broken windows, or even a car crushed under falling trees. Sometimes houses were splintered or gone. Sometimes worse.

The exterior of a café in Paris. The awning is orange and reads "Le Saint Gervais Restaurant." There is a woman wearing a mask seated at one of the tables in front of the café. There is another woman standing at the bar who is visible inside the café.

But usually, tornadoes just meant a half-hour disruption and extra yard work. In French Confinement 1.0, that’s what we thought it would be–a few weeks of enforced solitude, then a national cleanup. 

Boy, were we wrong! COVID-19 took a vacation this summer and came back stronger than ever. We gave her an inch, and she took a mile. Several miles.

Macron had promised we wouldn’t go into another lockdown, but the overloaded hospitals were a huge issue. To keep us from going bonkers, and to keep the economy afloat, the government found some ways to do things differently this time.

–The attestation (permit to go out) is much more user-friendly–you can save it on your phone, and there are more allowed reasons for going out: visiting shut-in relatives, going to work, taking kids to school, and going to judicial or administrative appointments. Strangely, one can move apartments, but there is no allocation for visiting apartments.

–Schools and parks are open, so you don’t see the same harried parents trying to corral their little kids on the narrow, dog-poopy sidewalks. 

Left: a large church in Paris. The church is nestled in amongst other buildings. All of the buildings and the church are cream colored. The church has a large red door. Right: A café in Paris called "Le Sancerre." The word "Sancerre" is visible on a large green awning. There are several people sitting at tables and chairs outside. There are leaves from trees visible to the right.

–Some shops are open for Click-and-Collect, which means you can go to the cordoned-off door of the shop and tell them what you want, or what you ordered, and they’ll fetch it for you. 

–Some restaurants are open for take-away, so you have another option besides delivery and Googling yet another recipe. Or toast.

But there’s still a big difference between Confinements 1.0 and 2.0: my attitude. Now, I’m jaded and cynical. I haven’t seen my stateside kids and family in almost a year. Friends who lost their jobs in March are still unemployed, other friends have suffered from Covid, we know Confinement 2.0 will go on longer than the December 1 “end date,” and I’ve gained 10 pounds. Forget baking banana bread; I’m even ordering cocktails these days.

A street in Paris. There is a red bookstore with the word "Librarie" written in white on it to the right. There are several people walking in the street, all who are visible are wearing face masks. There is a do not enter street sign visible to the left. The surrounding buildings are white.

So, what’s an expat to do?

I’m planning a lovely, tiny Thanksgiving at home in Paris. I’m going to spatchcock a chicken and bake a pumpkin pie. Also, mashed potatoes that will make us cry with their buttery goodness.

I’m planning a beach vacation with my kids when this is over. We will drink margaritas in lounge chairs and hug, drunkenly confessing our love for each other over and over again. 

I’m looking for non-Amazon ways to do a long-distance Christmas. Amazon has been a life-saver during confinement, but little businesses are feeling the squeeze. 

I’m going to get a Christmas tree and decorate it with all those old, chipped decorations and probably cry. 

Left: the glass pyramid outside the Louvre Museum. There is a group of three people walking in front of it and to the left there is someone on a bike visible. The sky is cloudy. Right: an outdoor seating area at a café in Paris. There are several tables and chairs but they are all empty. A green door is visible to the right and there is a heater visible. There are a few small potted plants, and a window of the café is visible.

I’m going to keep ordering meals and deal with the extra pounds in the spring. 

I’m schlepping my way through NaNoWriMo, because now I have no excuse not to write that novel.

We just learned that stores are opening up this weekend. I, for one, plan to get out there and spread some Seasonal Cheer (masked and distanced) and practice retail therapy and help local merchants at the same time. 

I’m among the lucky ones, because I haven’t lost anyone during this pandemic. I know people who have and it’s truly heart breaking. 

I may not be able to be with my people right now, but I still have my people. And, like me, I know they’re in their cellars, hunkered down, waiting till the storm is over.

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Written by Yvonne Hazelton 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. 


Yvonne Hazelton

Yvonne is an American writer living in Paris. She blogs at Escaping the Empty Nest.


  1. I agree that both confinements have been challenging, but with the current one I too feel a deeper sense of isolation. When I moved to Paris in early 2019, it was with the expectation that I could easily hop a flight back home any time. These assumptions have been blown away during this crazy, unpredictable new reality. Now, my optimistic expectations have been replaced by the questions that won’t let me sleep: Will Paris ever be Paris again? How long will we fear the risks of long international flights? Will vaccinations be effective? I too really, really miss my family in the US, and I feel some desperation that it may be late in 2021 before we can get together again. I always enjoy your articles because they ring so true and feel so genuine. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Thank you for a beautifully written, sensitive article for Thanksgiving. I didn’t realize that besides the live of Paris and France in general, we share the experience of tornado season! The intense colors and the ozone made it very exciting. Here’s to you and the pleasure you bring to us Francophiles !
    Nancy Flemming
    Eureka, California
    Ps . I spent last Christmas and New Years in Oaria with my daughter, her partner and two grandkids. It was so wonderful and so glad we did! ( pre-Covid)

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