Tomorrow is the big day when France begins a gradual emergence from nearly 8 weeks of lock down in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. According to government reports, it’s been a successful effort in saving over 60,000 lives and preventing 85% of the infections that would have occurred had there not been a stay-at-home order. Most businesses have been closed but shops that sell food, medications, wine, and/or cigarettes did not have to hang the “fermé” sign on their doors. Delivery services sprang up overnight so we were even able to keep the wine rack full without stepping out the door. When the rules were being written about which shops would be allowed to begin welcoming customers first, guess who made it to the top of the list: hair salons and barber shops. After two months without haircuts and coloring, we gotta look good!
Since we’re retired, having to live with the confinement rule has not been much of a hardship for us. Even the nightly curfew of 9:00 PM to 5:00 AM wasn’t a hassle since that corresponds to my sleeping time anyway! The Saturday open air fruits and vegetables market resumed a month ago so we started arriving at their 7:00 AM opening time to avoid the crowds. City buses have been on half schedules with trains running 10% of their services, but only those with compelling travel needs were authorized to go anyway, so we just waited it out at home.
Luckily, physical distancing has not kept us socially distant from our neighbors. Prior to March 17 hardly a day went by without someone coming over for coffee or wine or to invite us to their place, but since then our doorbell “forgot how to ring”, borrowing some words that Ella Fitzgerald first sang in 1957. Chats on our doorstep and nightly drinks from our house to theirs across our narrow street became the norm. One couple who would never normally touch a glass of wine before 7:00 PM made note that our American ways were rubbing off on them because it was only 5:30 PM and we were toasting each other. With a 9:00 PM curfew, you have to get started early.
The plan is to reopen the country in stages with schools and most businesses authorized to restart but anyone who can continue working from home is encouraged to do so. Restaurants, cafés and bars will hopefully follow in June but events that draw huge crowds can’t happen until after the middle of July, at the earliest. Restrictions can be reimposed if the health crisis worsens. Masks must be worn on buses and trains and shop keepers have the option of turning away anyone who isn’t wearing one. The best news for us is that instead of being limited to walking/running/exercising within 1 kilometer from home, we’ll now be able to go up to 100 kilometers away and Bill’s bike is poised at our front door waiting for daylight.
Mondays in Carcassonne are always pretty quiet because like many cities across France the tradition of businesses being closed on the first day of the week has found a stronghold here. The exceptions are the same stores that remained open during the lock down but I have a feeling that tomorrow might be a little different. In fact, I think it will be like shaking a bottle of champagne, popping the cork, and then trying to keep the bubbles inside. See you outside tomorrow!