I hope that you and yours are well.
The last couple of weeks I’ve been travelling round France after an absence of almost 5 months. It feels a lot longer than that – like another lifetime. And a lot has changed in that time, though some things remain reassuringly normal.
I’ve been to Paris and the Vendée, Les Gets in the Haute Savoie (via Geneva) and Angers in the Loire Valley. I went everywhere by train, wearing a mask, obsessively using hand gel and washing my hands more times than Lady Macbeth. On the metro in Paris, every other seat is marked with a big red X to remind passengers to socially distance. Actually the metro wasn’t crowded, a lot more people are walking and cycling in the city. The mainline trains weren’t packed either, and if people were allotted seats close together, they took it on themselves to move to less populated carriages.
I went to the utterly amazing Puy du Fou theme park in the Vendée where we had to wear our masks everywhere, from walkways to shows. It was worth it. Puy du Fou is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced, and I’ll be telling you more about it soon, including the fact that I stayed in a hotel on site that’s a replica of Versailles! In Angers I wandered ancient cobbled streets and visited the stunning castle. In Les Gets I fell in love with the fresh mountain air, the spectacular scenery and the new Alta Lumina show – an enchanted forest of light and music.
Masks are really a way of life now in France and French people are, perhaps surprisingly knowing how rebellious they can be, very compliant. I think we have all reached the stage where we just want this to be over and accept we must do what we’re told and hope, pray, dream of the day when things are more normal. How we will thank our lucky stars when that day comes.
And talking of normal. Paris.
Yes, masks must be worn, people socially distance, there is a constant whiff of sanitised hand gel in the air. But when you sit at a terraced café, mask off, watching the world go by, you know that the good times are still there, albeit slightly hidden. That one day they will come back…
That was what I was thinking as I sat at a café opposite the Gare du Nord in Paris, waiting for my train home to Etaples-Le-Touquet. Sweet thoughts, smiling away to myself. Over comes the waiter, very Parisian, cool as a cucumber on a roasty toasty hot day, talking ten to the dozen, a muffled spiel through his mask, eyes darting about over the tables making sure no one left without paying, seeing if anyone wanted anything. Professional, curt in the way that only waiters in Paris can be without being rude, speedy and ruthlessly efficient. Some things never change.
Wishing you and yours well, bisous from my little pigsty office in rural northern France,
Janine Marsh is Author of My Good Life in France: In Pursuit of the Rural Dream – ebook, print & audio, on Amazon everywhere & all good bookshops online, and My Four Seasons in France: A Year of the Good Life
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