I love living in my quartier. There is a wonderful shopping street just around the corner, rue de Levis. It’s not as trendy as rue Cler or rue Mouffetard, so we don’t have tourists or film crews or selfie sticks. I’ve gotten to know my merchants, and food shopping is often a highlight of my day.
Now, we have coronavirus restrictions.
I’ve only seen my friends in person if we walk by each other’s buildings and yell back and forth from the window. We can only leave our homes for food and medicine, within one km from homes, or going to work (which is, I suppose, food and pharmacy employees, and a few civil servants). And yes, the police are checking papers.
The open-air markets, those wonderful weekly pop-up farmer’s markets, have been shuttered by the virus, too. That leaves Paris with grocery store chains and the petits commerçants, the little shops—bakeries, butchers, produce stands, cheese shops. Merci pour eux.
While I don’t mind being confined in my apartment with my 17-year-old, (we’re both introverts, so we work well together), I really miss my friends. We’re in contact online, but I miss hugging people. I miss the bisous; I just got good at it, never bonking cheekbones anymore, kissing the air just next to their faces and enjoying those scratchy beards. I miss casual glances and compliments on my shoes. I miss joking around and the sweet silence that comes from sitting comfortably with a loved one. I miss walking while talking.
During this lockdown, shopping on rue de Levisis keeping me sane. I’ve always gotten along well with the merchants, but now we greet each other enthusiastically, albeit briefly, social distancing you know, inquiring about the other’s health and families and sanity. We’ve started doubling up on the “Ça va?” portion of our greetings, going back and forth and looking each other in the eyes even more than usual, making sure that we’re all okay. But that’s the end of the virus talk—these people are professionals, experts in good humor and food knowledge and easy quick conversation. The fromager makes jokes about wearing gloves now, like a surgeon. The butcher saved the four-day supply of meat that I paid for and forgot, and the entire butcher staff exclaimed with pleasure when I came back the next day, knowing I’m feeding a teenage boy who faints if he doesn’t get protein every 20 minutes. The vegetable lady always has a smile for me, and the baker as well, from behind her new plexiglass sneeze guard.
We might not be friends, but somehow we are more than just acquaintances now. Seeing them in person, even for a short amount of time, during an upsetting time like this makes all the difference in my solitary days, exchanging smiles and speedy small talk from afar, saying bonne journée and à la prochaine (until next time), encouraging each other that there will be a prochaine.
This will keep me going until I can kiss my friends on the face again.
- Read about a Parisian journalist’s experience with the lockdown in Arles
- Take a virtual tour of Paris’ hidden Batignolles neighborhood, where rue de Levis is located
- Become a professional in the kitchen with two-star Michelin chef Stéphanie Le Quellec’s crème caramel recipe
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.
3 comments on “Who’s Making My Paris Life Bearable Right Now? My Petits Commerçants”
You’re welcome! Thanks for reading, and stay safe.
thank you so mutch for sharing information