End of week 6, and coming to the end of our Reconfinement. Starting December 15, we no longer need a document to leave our homes, but will have a strict 8pm – 6am curfew. We didn’t reach our goal of 5,000 cases a day (we’ve plateaued at 10K), so theaters and museums will stay closed for now. Restaurants and bars won’t see the light of day until January. And while they are lifting the curfew for Christmas Eve, they are not for New Years Eve. Probably a smart move.
This last full week of Reconfinement was also my birthday week—yes, it’s a weeklong celebration. What? There would be no birthday party this year, but I’d made peace with that. Instead, I organized a virtual soirée, and for the first time, had friends and family from both sides of the pond in attendance. That’s one upside of going virtual.
My actual birthday was two days earlier, and I made a plan to devote the day to things that made me happy—sweet little things, festive things, self-care things. I kicked it off by talking to two of my dearest friends, one of whom sang me “Happy Birthday” on his guitar (I know!). You may remember Matthew, who lives in Tokyo, from my Lockdown Diary: Viewsday Tuesday and Fun Friday.
After that, well, my day was already made. I told myself that whatever else came along would just be icing on my birthday cake. So come along with me on my big birthday out…
THE SIGHTS: GRAND & FESTIVE
And speaking of icing on the cake, next on my list of birthday happy-making activities: the holiday windows at les grands magasins, capped off by the tree at Galeries Lafayette.
The windows at Printemps are really sweet this year, and made me giggle out loud. I dare you not to be happy watching these videos.
The windows at Galeries Lafayette told the story of the travels of a young explorer. That’s her in the teal jumpsuit on the right of the scene, next to the flamboyant bird. This little girl was captivated.
The tree at Galeries Lafayette is to Paris was the Rockefeller Center tree is to New York—a symbol of hope and stability, never more needed than now. It was especially uplifting to see that, despite everything, some things, like this beautiful tree, endure.
THE SWEETS: SIMPLE PLEASURES
After I snapped about 100 photo of the tree, I took a stroll in the area. Let’s just say I didn’t get far. The lure of chocolate stopped me in my tracks. This darling shop, packed with handmade chocolate, Au Chat Bleu, has been in business since 1912. Normally, I’d scan the window and keep going; I’ve been off sugar for a while. But you know, birthday. Would it make me happy to go inside? Yes. So I did.
As soon as I entered the tiny, charming boutique, I was bathed in golden light, the scent of chocolate hanging in the air—as close to heaven on earth as a person might ever come. The whole team was there, as sweet and welcoming as their confections. I had a chat with the owner, who proudly showed me their signature chocolates, like these, below, with the blue cat heads. But I’d been lured inside by something I saw in the window. So I bought those.
THE SURPRISE: GOING OFF THE PLAN
I had it in my head that I wanted to go the center of town, maybe walk along the Seine, which I haven’t seen in weeks due to confinement. I took the train to the Chatelet station, one of the busiest transport hubs in Paris. I tried in vain to find the exit near the river, but instead ended up in the belly of Paris, as Emile Zola called it: Les Halles. Of course, it hasn’t been a food market since the 1960s. Instead, it’s an underground shopping mall.
I was attempting to beeline out of the mall, eager to get back on track, when I saw a frock in a store window. It’s been so long since I shopped for anything but essentials (February, to be exact), so I did what any red-blooded girl who grew up in New Jersey would do: I did a little shopping at the mall. Hey, I couldn’t afford the designer pieces at Galeries Lafayette, but I could pick up a cute off-brand number, on sale.
I finished out the day in the Marais, where I met up with a friend, totally by accident. We walked around a bit, ending up in Places des Vosges. It was his idea to buy a teeny birthday cake at Carette.
Looking back at my day, it seemed to be a lot about shopping and sweets, huh? And maybe so, but I don’t think it was really about what I bought. It was more about feeling normal, surrounding myself with beauty and the things that make Paris special to me. If cafés had been open, I’d surely have sat on a terrace somewhere, since that’s my real idea of the perfect day. But until I can settle in at a café table again, I’ll keep strolling around and taking away the things I love with me.