Life After Lockdown: Nous Sommes en Terrasse (Once Again)

Customers enjoying their beloved cafés once again. Au Cadran Voltaire in the 11th. ©Lisa Anselmo

It was the day Parisians had been waiting for. Cafés had been touting their reopening all week. “Ready to see us again Tuesday?” asked my local café on Instagram. Another café posted a photo of waiting terrace tables. “We’re ready for tomorrow.” I would feel a rush with each one that cropped up in my feed. Paris cafés are probably what I love most about living here—la vie de flaneur—and they are the center of Parisian social life. Their closure due to Covid-19 was a hard blow to café owners—and to customers who’d lost their usual refuge just when they needed it most. 

But after three long months, restaurants and cafés in France were finally allowed to reopen this Tuesday—full service in “Green Zones” (areas with a low number of cases), terrace service only in “Orange Zones,” like Paris, where beds in intensive care units are still close to capacity. For all restaurants in both zones, social distancing rules need to be adhered to—but unlike the six-foot limit in the States, here, they are enforcing only a scant one meter (approx. 39 inches) between tables.

Some cafés took these measures very seriously. Café des Anges, another local favorite, posted a photo of the manager measuring the distance between their terraces tables, normally lined up tightly in a single row along the façade. “Only a few safety distancing measures left and we can welcome you at Anges tomorrow starting at 10 a.m.! We can’t wait to see you again!” 

Café des Anges posts a photo of table set-up in preparation of reopening.

The whole city was feeling upbeat, and even Mother Nature seemed to smile on the day. I was eager to take part, and headed out after the lunch hour to document the reopenings for this blog, and my other project Save the Paris Café. It was too late to eat, and too early for wine, so I spent an hour making a large loop around the area, taking photos of all the different terraces that, just a week before, had been lonely and sad. But today, Paris felt like one big block party—especially because many cafés, in an effort to make up for the loss of inside seating, had annexed additional sidewalk space, parking spots, even part of the street. One café put an inviting table for four in front of a Métro station that is temporarily closed.

Table for 4? Follow me, madame, to the Métro. ©Lisa Anselmo

How cute is this? This cafe normally has no outdoor space, so they took over some parking spaces, with permission of the city. ©Lisa Anselmo; Below: Who needs to walk on the sidewalk? Just sit down and have drink already.

©Lisa Anselmo

Restaurants that don’t normally have terrace space simply plunked tables on the sidewalk. It posed a challenge for anyone trying to keep their distance from others as they walked along, but I took it in my stride and moved into the street when I needed to. It was worth a little inconvenience just to see the cafés serving again.

Some terraces still had plenty of seats while others were packed, and still others seemed to have forgotten all about social distancing. Yikes, no thank you, I thought as I walked past one of my favorites on Rue de la Roquette that had set up the tables as if it were any other day. There were only two people sitting on the terrace, and they were far apart, but I thought if someone came to sit next to me, how would I deter them when the table was right there? I wasn’t in the mood for a conflict. So I moved on.

Wow, that’s a lot of people. But it’s usually nearly twice that. ©Lisa Anselmo

Café des Anges on re-opening day. They took the social distancing measures very seriously. Normally, the tables are lined up tightly in a single row along the façade. ©Lisa Anselmo

Chez Paul on Rue de Charonne using maximum space. So cheerful with the yellow umbrella. It felt like a block party. ©Lisa Anselmo

This restaurant doesn’t normally have outside seating. You can see why: narrow sidewalk. They’ve even moved the booth outside. I’ve watched many a soccer match at that booth—but inside, of course. Below, they’ve taken advantage of some extra space on the side street, thanks to a no-parking zone. ©Lisa Anselmo

©Lisa Anselmo

By now, it was 3:30 p.m. and that was about wine o’clock by my way of thinking—it certainly felt like a celebration—so I made my way back to my local café. There were plenty of available tables on the terrace, lots of distance, and I set myself down on the side street where there was several feet of space all around. The waitress spotted me and bounded over. “Hey!” she sang from under her mask. “So happy to see you!”

“Heeey!” I sang back. “Me, too!” More than I could say. I ordered my usual Chardonnay (for only 4€70). 

My local, socially spaced. ©Lisa Anselmo

She came back with my wine, and placed it on the table, placing my world back right-side-up. I lifted my mask and took a sip, the first time I’d gone mask-less outside since March. I sat, and sipped, and watch the world go by. Like before.

Two woman arrived and sat a few tables away. As they settled in their seats, one of them exclaimed, “Ah, to sit on a terrace!” Exactly. Sitting there at that familiar table, looking out that familiar view, my eyes started to well up.

When lockdown happened, I wasn’t sure when—or if—we’d ever be able to do this again. Now, here I was. I took out my phone to take a photo and it connected automatically to the café’s WiFi. We’re home.

Like the best glass of wine I ever had. ©Lisa Anselmo

“Ready to find (see) us again Tuesday?” asks this Instagram post from my local café. This was shot pre-Covid, so you can see the difference in the table spacing from this photo to the one I shot above on re-opening day.


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Alfie Track Quiz Results

This Music Monday I asked the question: Who recorded the track “Alfie” for the U.S. release of the film of the same name? I got a lot of different responses from Dionne Warwick to Barbra to Dusty Springfield. While Barbra and Dionne may have recorded singles of the song, the correct answer, as you can see, is the one and only CHER, who was about 20 years old at the time, her star just starting to ascend. Assuming no one cheated (wink-wink), correct answers came in from Christine (first correct response), followed by J. Morales, and Debbie. Pamela finally landed it on it, too. Cher’s voice, to me, surpasses Cilla Black’s (who sang it for the U.K. release of the film). I love the simplicity and clarity of Cher’s voice in this song—its ringing tones and soulful sound. We forget how talented she is because her fame seems to have eclipsed her voice.

You can listen to Cher’s version—with its classic 1960s jingly-jangly pop-folk arrangement—set over the ending scene of the film Alfie, here. She released the song on her self-titled album,Chér (with accent aigu!) in October, ’66.

Cilla Black’s version, here, uses Bacharach’s original arrangement, which is what I also used. Personally, I don’t get the appeal of her voice, which is uneven—pretty enough when she sings softly but becomes really shrill and bright when she goes forte. Maybe that was the “it” sound back then, I dunno.


La vie en terrasse

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20 responses to “Life After Lockdown: Nous Sommes en Terrasse (Once Again)

  1. Wonderful! Simple pleasures- they really are the best. Are you going to terrace hop? Or crawl as we say in the U.K? Naomi x

  2. Boy I can’t wait to get back to Paris. I think we are 2-3 weeks behind reopening like that. Some of the same ideas (i.e. using streets for cafe tables) is going to happen. Now when will international flights from the US resume without quarantine ????

    • They may let international flights in starting July (I think they are mad), but quarantine might still be mandatory. And of course it remains to be seen if they want people from the US or not given the numbers are not at all under control. That worries me.

      • Desperate as I am to travel, it’s my understanding that those of us from the US are persona non grata in Europe. I want to say, ‘Not me! I’m one of the good ones!’

        But, of course, that wouldn’t matter. 115,000 deaths and counting….

        And a madman still in charge.

  3. Awesome post today all the cafes full of life. I understand having visited Paris it really is esential to sit and view the people. I did not see many wearing masks like here.
    Thank you for the photos much appreciated.
    I listened to both versions of Alfie I agree about the quality of Cher’s voice and I love her as an actress too. I was a teenager when Cila was dicovered watching her on Top Of The Pops on the television so there is much nostalgia !!!!
    Have a great weekend in Paris .
    Pamela 🇫🇷

    • Not too many wearing mask on terraces because there is eating and drinking. That’s why I chose a terrace that was empty. Just in case. But I’m overly cautious because I have breathing issues. But in general a lot of people are wearing masks here.

  4. So what places are the safest to.stay in.?
    Hotels ready to take tourists ? Art museums ? Do you feel it’s ok to travel there now or later?

    • No most hotels are not open yet. We are still closed to tourists for the moment. I would not come now. Those coming from the States could face a 2-week quarantine. Plus, our hospitals are still close to capacity. Museums are opening but with limits. It’s all too soon and in flux. Wait until the fall. Plus airports will be a mess. Staycation sounds good to me.

  5. Oh how I love your photos!!!
    I’ll be in Paris myself at the end of next week and I cannot wait to see it all with my own eyes!
    Have a great weekend.

      • Yes I live in Brittany at the moment so just driving with my daughter. You’ll probably see a post from me by the end of next week 😉

      • And just like that, I’m already back from Paris… I’ve posted a few photos in my latest post if you want to have a look.
        Paris is as magic as ever. The Seine banks are ever so lively and it is wonderful to witness how people have adapted to the situation, taking social interaction outdoors. Tango, brass bands, bars all along the river… Enjoy, you lucky Paris dweller xx


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