Palm Sunday. It’s is a glorious day, summery with bright sunshine. No mass for us in Paris—the church is not opened for service. Instead, I filled out the official form allowing us to go outside, checking off the box that says, “Déplacements brefs”—a short outing—and headed out for a walk. It was the first time I’d been out of the house in nearly two weeks.
The sun made me squint; the warmth got right into my muscles. I let my feet take me where they wanted, and they headed me into the quiet streets of a charming former atelier village nearby.
In spite of the pull of the sun, most people in my neighborhood remained inside, their indoor activities providing the soundtrack to my walk: the clink of lunch dishes, family conversations, a vacuum cleaner. The music filling the street from the windows above—no matter what type of music—was decidedly upbeat, the kind of songs that make you jump out of your chair and dance. Parisians were doing their best to chase away the blues.
On Rue Planchat, three people sat on their 2nd-floor balcony, something you never see in Paris. But with café terraces closed, needs must. I waved to them as I passed, called out “bonjour.” They returned the bonjour. We laughed. Yes, strange times.
I veered around an old man on the sidewalk to maintain the mandatory distance of 1.5 meters. He was pulling his mask aside to light a cigarette. “Ça va?” he asked. How’s it going? I shrugged. “Ça va.” It goes.
Stores were all shuttered, but that’s normal for a Sunday. So, for a moment, I let myself imagine that it was a normal Sunday.
But at Place de la Reunion, the Sunday market was not set up. The terrace at No Name Café on the plaza was not overflowing with marketers sipping coffee. No, today was not a normal Sunday.
It didn’t matter. I’ve settled into this new normal, surrendered to the undeniable reality of a city under confinement. I’m no longer trying to maintain the illusions of my former life, grasping onto what was. And I’m more peaceful for it.
Scenes from a Sunday in Quarantine
The only Parisians out were those shopping for food, or taking a jog. And me. This plaza is usually teaming with people, especially during market day. Not one person entered or exited the Métro. To go where?
This café, on Place de la Reunion, is normally teaming with marketers on a Sunday. It’s been closed, like all restaurants and non-essential stores, since March 13. We hope our local places will reopen. There is no guarantee. Their sign (below) says, “Closure until New Order. Stay positive and be careful!”
This area has many tiny lanes with a lot of interesting modern architecture. Very few of the original buildings survived since many were ramshackle wooden structures built for the workers who helped build Haussmann’s Paris.
Many shopkeepers, like this one, set up partitions at the front door. Customers can order what they need from the sidewalk and the package is brought out. The shopkeeper was wearing a full plastic face shield. I like this shop, and it did my heart good to see this place was still doing business. Hopefully, that will help him weather this storm. But this café (below) on this adorable little square, may not fare as well. Cafés don’t deliver food, so they are missing an opportunity to make some revenue.
“Take-out only,” it says. Signs like this one at the local Indian restaurant, are cropping up all over. It makes me wonder if my pizza guy delivers. Boulangeries, like this one below, are still functioning. Recently, the government urged us to buy from our local bakeries since it seems people have not been making their daily trips, and bakers are feeling the sting. They are considered essential businesses during this time in France.
This is normally a busy traffic circle teaming with activity. I was able to stand in the middle of the street to perfect this shot. A gorgeous day with no one around, except for the people queuing up at the nearby tabac (tobacconist) buying their cigarettes. Tabacs are also considered essential businesses, but the cafés attached to them remain closed.
This sign, stuck up on the window of a shuttered local café, Café Colette, professes love for the staff, no doubt put there by a regular. Just one of many tender gestures between Parisians under confinement, like the nightly applause for the healthcare workers. You can view that below.