A Changing World: The Saga of Paris Déconfinement

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A Changing World: The Saga of Paris Déconfinement

As winter softened into spring, Paris hunkered down in pandemic “confinement.” As of March 17, we could travel no more than one kilometer from home.

We were allowed to perform essential tasks (such as grocery shopping, dog walking, and exercise) but had to limit those adventures to one hour each day, clutching our trusty attestations.

Grocery stores were well stocked during confinement, with all safety precautions in place. Photo © Meredith Mullins

The streets were eerily empty. Traffic was nonexistent, except for empty buses keeping to their schedules. The air was free of pollution. The natural rhythms of the earth returned.

The Louvre, with eerie emptiness. Photo © Meredith Mullins

As we sheltered, we transitioned to online culture, Zoom gatherings, unending Netflix, virtual travel, all-day pajamas, banana bread recipes, and a new appreciation for the details of our neighborhood and the beauty of nature.

Free at Last—Déconfinement/Phase One (from May 11)

Then came May 11—the long-awaited day of (semi) liberation. Phase One of Déconfinement gave us a taste of freedom . . . and a changed world.

The lockdown laws lessened, but we still had to be vigilant about health precautions. Masks were recommended outside (advice taken by about 50% of the public) and were required in most stores and on all public transport.


Will mask chic take over Paris city streets? Photo © Meredith Mullins

Hand sanitizer (once in short supply) now appeared in every shop and in distribution stations around the city.

Paris, hand sanitizer

Hand sanitizer is now part of Paris street culture. Photo © Meredith Mullins

We could now travel more than one kilometer (but no more than 100 kms). The river banks were reopened, and people could gather in groups of no more than 10 people. And gather we did, given the sun-filled weather. So much so that alcohol was banned by the canals and the Seine.

Paris Seine

The Seine banks celebrated deconfinement. Photo © Meredith Mullins

Certain streets in Paris were designated as bike routes, particularly paralleling Metro lines 1, 4, and 13. For example, rue de Rivoli expanded its bike lanes and was closed to traffic other than buses, taxis, and other essential vehicles. Could we possibly prevent the car pollution from returning?

Rue de Rivoli

Rue de Rivoli is now a bike throughway. Photo © Meredith Mullins

Schools and churches slowly reopened with strict rules about social distancing.

Paris school, social distancing

A school gets creative with social distancing rules. Photo © Meredith Mullins

Public transport schedules regained some normalcy, but the interiors of buses and metros were now a constant reminder of health precautions. To ensure social distancing, certain seats were marked to be left empty.

Paris bus seat

Certain seats on buses must be left empty to ensure social distance. Photo © Meredith Mullins

Since it was difficult to social distance during rush hours, these times were reserved for people who must travel at that time, with attestations required.

Paris open market

Open markets are back. Photo © Meredith Mullins

Open markets resumed, and many more restaurants became creative about take-out opportunities. Of course, Deliveroo, UBER Eats, and Glovo were available (in a more limited way) during confinement, but in déconfinement, more restaurants started offering delivery options and street-side take-away.

Street-side service, La Fregate.

Street-side service at La Fregate. Photo © Meredith Mullins

From Michelin-starred restaurants like Frenchie to street pizza take-out to American pancakes, we were never in danger of starving.

Paris, Michelin star take-out

A Michelin-starred take-out dinner from Frenchie, complete with color coding to match each dish with its sauce. Photo © Meredith Mullins

True, a Michelin take-out meal is not the same experience as having each course served perfectly at an elegant table, but if you’re tired of your own cooking, a Michelin-starred meal is not a bad way to make a change.

So much better than my home cooking. Photo © Meredith Mullins

And who doesn’t crave pancakes and bacon every so often?

Breakfast in America serves up morning pancakes (or burgers) pour emporter. Photo © Meredith Mullins

Some museums and galleries also reopened, with excellent precautions in place. The Musée Jacquemart André allows only a few people in at a time by reservation to ensure social distancing, and they take your temperature at the entrance. Socially distanced expositions are a perfect way to experience art. You can really see.

The luxury of an exposition all to yourself at the Musée Jacquemart André. Photo © Meredith Mullins

Galleries like the Galerie Hegoa take a reservation for a particular time slot and close between time slots to make sure the gallery is sanitized for the next visitor.

Galerie Hegoa takes all precautions for a safe visit. Photo © Meredith Mullins

We are Orange! Déconfinement/Phase Two (from June 2)

Phase Two of Déconfinement is full of good news. The Ile-de-France region (including Paris), which was once designated a “red zone” (indicating heightened Covid-19 challenges) has turned to orange.

Even before that announcement, you could feel Phase Two freedom coming. There was more activity in the shadowed interiors of restaurants and cafés. Remodeling, painting, and cleaning were common activities. Gardeners were back in the gardens and parks. Something was coming!

The gardens and parks are now open (see which are open here). With such perfect weather and some late spring and early summer blooming still to come, this gift comes not a moment too soon.

Jardin du Luxembourg

High marks for social distancing in the Jardin du Luxembourg. Photo © Meredith Mullins

Phase Two allows restaurants and cafés to reopen, but only on outside terraces and still with social distancing in place. These restrictions will be challenging to owners. We don’t necessarily want to sit in the plexiglass bubbles that some countries are installing. Some owners may wait to reopen. But, hopefully, the heartbeat of Paris life . . . the cafés will soon be visible.

Paris café

Even in Phase One of Deconfinement, some cafés tried to make us feel that Paris heartbeat. Photo © Meredith Mullins

Museums and monuments will be slowly reopening as well. If you’re ready for in-person culture, there are many current options besides those mentioned above. The Musée Marmottan reopened on June 2 (by reservation), and the Château de Versailles will follow on June 6. The Atelier des Lumières is also open (by reservation).

Atelier des Lumières

Several museums are now open, including the Atelier des Lumières. Photo © Meredith Mullins

If you’re ready to travel outside of the 100 kilometer restriction of Phase Two, you may now do that, especially keeping in mind that the green zones in France have fewer restrictions. In the green zones, beaches, lakes, pools, gyms, theatres, museums, and tourist accommodations are all reopening.

Déconfinement/Phase Three (from June 22)

We still have a long way to go to meet the Covid-19 challenges. Life will different for some time to come.

Social distancing, summer, Paris

Hopefully, in the summer air, we won’t forget the importance of social distancing. Photo © Meredith Mullins

It is hoped that hotels in Paris can reopen in Phase Three (June 22). It is probable that restaurant and café interiors will reopen in Phase Three as well, but owners will have to be creative to ensure social distancing and will surely weigh the economic reality of whether they can survive with these restrictions. Gyms and pools will also reopen in Phase Three.

More museums and monuments will open, with the Orangerie and Musée d’Orsay scheduled to open on June 22/23, the Pompidou Center on July 1, and the Louvre on July 6 (in each case with some galleries restricted).

The Louvre will reopen on July 6. Photo © Meredith Mullins

Theatres and cinema will reopen also, but with the restrictions of social distancing and the caveat that enclosed spaces have higher risk of Covid-19 transmission.

It is true that “we’ll always have Paris.” Parisians have faith in the city motto Fluctuat nec Mergitur. (Paris may be tossed by the waves, but she will not sink).

As the Prime Minister said, it is the spirit of the rules as well as the rules themselves that will allow us to succeed. We need to protect ourselves, as well as our fellow humans.

We will rise to the challenges. However, for the moment, we will have a new Paris—one that we haven’t seen before.

Lead photo credit : Deconfinement/Phase Two in the Luxembourg Gardens. Photo © Meredith Mullin

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Meredith Mullins is an internationally exhibited fine art photographer and instructor based in Paris. Her work is held in private and museum collections in Europe and the U.S. and can be seen at www.meredithmullins.artspan.com or in her award-winning book "In A Paris Moment." She is a writer for OIC Moments and other travel and education publications.

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  • Roy
    2020-08-25 01:39:43
    Magnifique! Et Paris, et tes photos! "Comme d'habitu---de!" Non. Comme toujours!


  • Beth Steffen
    2020-06-23 11:12:05
    Beth Steffen
    Reading this post and viewing the gorgeous photos of Paris makes me nostalgic for the many years when I lived in France, when I was able to drive from Bordeaux up to Paris and get my 'fix' of great art, culture, food and shear joy ! Thank you for this distant 'fix'.


  • Pamela
    2020-06-14 09:31:13
    Since I live here too, I may have been close to writing the text, but what a great kaleidoscope of stunning shots, and I especially loved Frenchie's!


  • Michele Kurlander
    2020-06-09 19:56:10
    Michele Kurlander
    Thank you so much Meredith. I am so frustrated! While Paris is reopening I am still not permitted to come there. I had a visit planned starting on June 22 and Delta cancelled my flight and I had to cancel my airbnb. Now I plan on arriving late August. Fingers crossed. It has been almost a year, and usually I am there twice a year. Hello to you and Richard and everyone else in my favorite Ville.


  • keith jenkins
    2020-06-05 23:53:14
    keith jenkins
    I wake in the morning and read your report from Paris and it lifts my start to the day. I continue with my French audio language course with renewed enthusiasm! Knowing hopefully I can soon try it out for real.... I love your motto Fluctuat ne Mergitur. Such a positive attitude!


  • Joan
    2020-06-05 12:13:06
    What wonderful news. I pray that my flight on August 16 is uneventful and I can once again feel the joy that a trip to Paris places in my heart and soul.


  • Pauline Cavie
    2020-06-05 11:40:42
    Pauline Cavie
    Thank you for your delightful and informative report. The photos are a joy and some compensation for the fact that we cant be there just now.


  • Paul Figueroa
    2020-06-05 11:00:10
    Paul Figueroa
    I'm literally crying I'm so happy for Paris. What a wonderful place to be. I'll be there again!!


  • Victoria Henderson
    2020-06-05 10:43:22
    Victoria Henderson
    As I sit here reading this with my chocolate cake and coffee, I am thinking I need something more nutritious for breakfast....perhaps someone can send me some Oreo Pancakes? Or at least the recipe?


  • Mary-Louise Mielcarz
    2020-06-05 09:40:20
    Mary-Louise Mielcarz
    Thank you Meredith for bringing Paris to us. Even under these circumstances there is no place like it! Mary-Lou & Wally


  • Jamie Sue Brooks
    2020-06-04 00:03:58
    Jamie Sue Brooks
    Thank you for this optimistic look at the streets of Paris. A bright spot in a rather bleak week here in the U.S. As always, your photos are the delicious sauce to your writing (or wait, is it the other way around? No matter.)


  • Suki Tutthill
    2020-06-03 08:50:44
    Suki Tutthill
    Great article Meredith and love the photos. Seems we are all starting to "heal" from this pandemic. Murphys is "open" and we are experiencing the "new normal" at stores and restaurants. People just so happy to be outside and shopping. And, spending money!! Love you.


  • Anna Eklund-Cheong
    2020-06-02 10:13:52
    Anna Eklund-Cheong
    Loved this report from the frontlines! Terrific details. Bravo, Paris! Let's hope all goes well. <3