This past week two things happened. One, I was reminded that we are less than a month away from the one year anniversary of when Paris first went into lockdown. Or, as I like to call it, the start of COVID living. Two, I realized that we are still over a month away from a tentative re-opening of the city. And I do mean tentative. Nothing has been made official, and with cases of the UK variant growing in France, I’m not getting my hopes up for any sort of reopening date just yet. All of this is to say that I found myself in quite the nostalgic mood this past week. In particular, I kept thinking about all the things I miss about pre-COVID Parisian living. And there are a lot of them.
A Terrace on Every Corner
Paris has now been under a curfew for over four months. Restaurants and bars have been closed for almost as long, and I’m really feeling their absence. I know it may not sound like much, but having a drink on a terrace with some friends is a staple of Parisian living. And it’s not about the drinking. Sure, one glass of wine can easily become two, and before you know it, it’s after midnight and you’ve gone through a bottle or two. But that’s not the point of these gatherings. The point is to sit in the company of friends, talking away the hours, and connecting on a personal level. Before the pandemic, I would easily be out four or five times a week to meet someone for a drink on a terrace. And I’m an introvert! That’s how much this activity is a part of Parisian living. And I miss it.
All the Culture at Your Fingertips
I know I’ve said this countless times already, but I absolutely cannot wait until museums, cinemas, and other cultural spaces re-open. But it’s much more than that. Paris is a city where you’re surrounded by culture at all times. It doesn’t matter where you are. Billboards, ads, and posters are constantly reminding you of what exhibits are opening/closing, what movies are upcoming, and what concert tickets are going on sale. Even if you never actually partake in any of these events, you still know that they’re there, just waiting for you should you suddenly decide to visit. Now, whenever I see a poster that is still advertising a long closed/cancelled exhibit or event, I can’t help but feel sad. It will be wonderful to be surrounded by culture once more.
Fear Not the Crowds
Paris is a big city. Population wise, it’s the third largest in Europe, which means you’re constantly surrounded by people. Whether on the metro or at the market, Parisians will show up in droves. Personally, I never used to mind the crowds, but now, like everyone else, I’m wary of anyone getting too close. Unfortunately, I think it will be a long time before that wariness goes away, but I hope it does eventually. I’d love to be able to go to the markets again without getting nervous every time someone comes too close.
The Dearth of Tourists
I am well aware that I may be the minority on this one. Most of my fellow Parisians spend a not insignificant amount of time complaining about the crowds of tourists that descend upon the city every year. And I will admit to enjoying having more space in museums this past year. But overall, I really miss the tourists. Yes, I miss giving tours, but it’s more than that. Paris is a beautiful city, but it can also be an incredibly frustrating city to navigate. Especially as an immigrant. That’s why I love being surrounded by people who are simply overjoyed to be here. Every time I start to get even the least bit jaded about the Eiffel Tower, I pass by someone who is staring at it in awe because they are fulfilling a lifelong dream of seeing it in person. Tourists are a constant reminder of how magical this city is. After a year of lockdowns, curfews, and restrictions, I could do with a little bit of magic right about now.
Those Good Old Days…
Okay, this one is going to sound weird. As I rode the nostalgia train this past week, there was a tiny part of me that was nostalgic for the early days of COVID living. Yes, everything was unknown and scary, but there was also a sense of community and camaraderie. An abundance of art and culture was being put online every day. For free. The streets were quiet and the air literally smelt cleaner due to the lack of pollution.
Don’t get me wrong. I am well aware of how much people were suffering back then and continue to suffer today. But there was also a sense last March that at the very least we were all in this together. Today, not so much. People are tired, weary, worn out, and I don’t blame them. I am too. And the continued uncertainty is draining at best. I also know that there’s no going back to the pre-COVID normal, but sometimes I wish we could go back to those early days of the first lockdown. When we all thought this would be over in a couple of months and we still came to our windows every night to clap and cheer together.
A Return to Parisian Living
I hope a return to normal(ish) Parisian living is somewhere on the horizon. Hopefully sooner rather than later, but at this point, I’ll be happy with ‘at some point’. There are so many reasons why I love living in Paris, and at the moment, the vast majority of them are all closed. I know it’s for a good reason, but that doesn’t mean I can’t help but feel nostalgic for the days when I could squeeze onto a metro, visit a museum, pass through the crowds in front of Notre Dame, and end the day on a terrace with some friends and a bottle of wine. At some point those days will be back. Until then, I’ll stay home, wear a mask, and do my part to get them here as soon as possible.
Laura Moore is a professional storyteller who loves history and the many stories that make Paris one of the most fascinating cities in the world. Join one of her signature tours to learn the story of a city.