Change of Scenery
I actually traveled to other parts of Paris over the weekend. I wasn’t the only one, either. In fact, the streets were very busy, even in the middle of a very snowy Saturday. The flakes were coming down pretty heavy and substantial by about noon, so I put on my warmest clothing, fur-lined boots, grabbed an umbrella and out I went into the wintry mess…all to visit an old friend who just moved to Paris from New York. She would have been here long ago, but the French consulate in New York gave her wrong information when they told her that even with her newly acquired long-stay visa, she wasn’t allowed into the country because of Covid-19—Not true.
Cultural Tip: Living here you’ll soon discover that the French generally don’t like admitting they don’t know something, so they’ll answer the question even if they don’t know the answer. (One thing for sure, if you don’t ask the right question, you won’t get the right answer, either.) I can only surmise that this is what happened in her dealing with the consulate and for months she sat hunkered down in New York dreaming of Paris, all while she could have been confined in the City of Light instead. She’s here now and happily ensconced in her bourgeois apartment in the 15th arrondissement getting the lay of the land and tackling the trials and tribulations of adapting to a French lifestyle. It hasn’t been a piece of cake, but “c’est la vie en France.”
Other friends took advantage of the snow to head to the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont to ski down the steep slopes while there was still some serious accumulation on the ground. Newly formed snowmen dotted the landscape. A friend’s young Cairn pup, “King Clovis,” got his nose wet in the snow for the first time in his young life. He happily posed for his mistress’s camera. I was jealous of their outing in the fresh air…something I almost forgot existed…fresh air—not that stuff in my mask.
Sunday the snow was gone, the gray cloud cover was still hovering over, but the temperature had risen making it almost pleasant…as pleasant as Paris can be in the winter. The streets were busier with strollers desperate for some exercise and life…any ounce of normal will do to ward off the depression. I trekked over to Saint-Germain-des-Prés for a pot-luck lunch with American friends spending a few months-sojourn in Paris. It seemed normal enough and was just what the doctor ordered. Normal, too, at Place de Fürstenberg. A woman opera singer who regularly serenades the neighborhood’s residents, was out letting loose with her vocal chords. She drew a small crowd as her lovely voice resonated well, thanks to the special acoustics of the Place.
I had almost forgotten how beautiful Paris was, in spite of the wintry weather and the multitudes of hours spent indoor my apartment. Since New Year, I’d barely left my immediate neighborhood and kept all excursions to shopping expeditions. In fact, that’s all there is to do during confinement with a curfew of 6 p.m. that started Saturday night—shop for groceries. At least there is that, otherwise I might lose my mind. I’m getting to know the Monoprix, the Franprix, the Carrefour and Picard pretty well now…after years of eating out twice a day and only stopping at any of these joints for toilet paper or cleaning supplies. Those were the days, my friend.
Most of the retail stores are open, but what’s the point of buying new clothing that won’t get worn? I’ve been living in the same black leggings that double as at-home wear during the day and sleepwear at night, making for a whole lot less laundry to do. In fact, it’s a pretty good system. In the interest of not getting too too slovenly, I still put on a bra every morning even if all alone in the apartment, just to keep “the girls” perky…and then shed it for when I get in bed with a tray table, a home-made dinner and dumb TV…a whole lot earlier than I used to. It’s become ritualistic at this point, but when I watch TV and see people in close quarters, or being physical with one another, the picture seems so wrong. Where are their masks, I wonder?
The dishwasher is getting more action in a week than it was getting in a year, now that I’m actually cooking for myself. It’s getting awfully boring however…the same baked chicken thighs, sautéed fish or peel-and-eat shrimp with a salad or vegetable. Plus, I hate dirtying up the stove and making all those dirty dishes, pots and pans. Ugh! When will Café Charlot open up again? I’m dreaming about a good hearty lunch there where I can be served and won’t have the mess to clean.
I try to go out for a daily walk in spite of the weather just for the exercise, but I’ve taken to looking for things to buy, just for the sake of occupying the time. But who needs or wants it all, anyway? It’s easy to see how consumerism starts…with boredom. Still, I find myself acquiring things I don’t really need or want…like a heating pad to warm my tushie in bed or scented diffuser that costs too much money. “C’est confinement en France.”
Conversations with friends now center around which markets have the best produce or what restaurant is doing take-out or who delivers to your home…not what’s the best exhibit in town to attend. What happened to the Paris I used to know and love? It’s hiding behind masks. No one has a face anymore, just eyes and fogged up glasses. Mine are always steamed up, no matter what mask I try so I can’t see where I’m walking half the time. I try breathing differently, but that doesn’t work. Besides, what does “breathing differently” really mean anyway?
TV has become an obsession. Here’s the routine: Wake up, turn on France 24 and listen to a smattering of U.S. and world news. Switch to Youtube and do 15 minutes of QiGong with Kseny (or another instructor) to do some heavy breathing and light exercise. Once feeling better to tackle the day, I’ll switch to CNN to see what insanity is happening Stateside and how much they can sensationalize the news—which is already so sensational it doesn’t need any help. It doesn’t take long before I’m happy to head to the desk (what a long commute!) and stare at the computer screen for the next several hours. My tushie started to hurt so much from sitting all day that I bought a special pillow to soften the blow of “deskchairitis.” It’s decidedly better, even if the thick cushion doesn’t match the decor…but who’s seeing it anyway except me and the tushie?
My daughter did a smart thing: she flew to Maui for a few months. Maui is paradise with a Capital M and she intends to take advantage of a different kind of confinement…unconfined and unmasked…under the rainbows of the tropical rain forest. The kid has the right idea, if you ask me. I’m sure she’ll send photos just to torture me, but at least I can live vicariously through her while hunkering down in Paris.
My crystal ball says I’ll be glued to CNN for the next couple of days, starting with Wednesday’s inauguration of President Elect Joe Biden and Vice-President Elect Kamala Harris. The whole world will be watching and holding our breaths for what violence may ensue around the country. One thing for sure, it’s going to give us something else to think and talk about beside Covid-19.
Note: “Tushie” was first recorded during the early 1960s as an American alteration of Yiddish word, “tokhes” which means “buttocks.”
A la prochaine…
The Adrian Leeds Group®
P.S. FYI, the Covid-19 vaccinations are starting today in Paris. If you’re a health care professional or over the age of 75 or if you have serious pre-existing conditions, then you can schedule your vaccination in one of the 19 vaccination centers in Paris now. Just visit the city website for more information.