May 24, 2020

Parisian bikes are called la petite reine

Mayor Anne Hidalgo wants to make Paris the world’s most bikeable city but we are a far cry from Amsterdam or Copenhagen. During France’s 46-day transit strike last year, however, many metro-goers switched to cycling, doubling the number of cyclists on the roads. Le vélo became known as la petite reine (the little Queen).

Then, Paris rolled out emergency bike lanes for the use of key workers during the lockdown. A total of 650 km of cycleway - including a number of "pop-up corona cycleways”- were readied when déconfinement began two weeks ago.

Bicycles were very popular in the French capital up until the 1940s. They were then gradually squeezed out by war and the boom in the auto industry. Bikes are now back in business with a 131% year-on-year rise in the number of cyclists. Car use in Paris is falling for the first time since the 1940s!

If Paris' mayor has her way, we will become the "Ville Du Quart D’Heure" (City of fifteen minutes) an ambitious plan promising that every street will have a cycle path, every bridge will have protected cycleways, and every resident can walk or cycle to get anything they need. Stay tuned...

May 22, 2020

Empty chairs

They are everywhere but you don’t see them. Or rather you don’t notice them. They are sometimes a privileged place for chitchat where the world is put to rights, sometimes reserved for a moment of peaceful thought or prayer and often chosen to grab a bite during lunchtime or a ray of sunshine.

Some people use them as a reading room, others as a telephone box, yet others as a stopover on their pedestrian itinerary.

Georges Brassens sang of the public benches as a privileged place for romantic amateurs of deep kisses. It is heartwarming to see Paris' chairs and benches being brought back to life after two months of quarantine... and have you noticed how many of their occupants are lovebirds?!? Now more than ever before has Paris earned its reputation as city of love.

May 21, 2020

Lockdown captured in a piece of art

If there's one thing that can never be contained, it is creativity. In the times of chaos, creating art can be cathartic even if you are not an artist. For starters we have more time to create as we are distanced from the distractions of our normal lives. If your lockdown experience were a piece of art, what would it look like?

Draw, paint, stitch, photograph, cook, and create your artistic response to living in isolation. It could be artwork, poetry, inspiring quotes, the view from your window or family tic tocs. Document your experiences of "confinement" as a reminder how drastically fast the world changed in a way no-one could have predicted!

I've entitled mine: L'attimo fuggente (A fleeting moment)

May 16, 2020

What did lockdown look like?

Paris has finally come to an end of 56 days of confinement and the general questions is: what did you do during lockdown?

Well, for most it began with incredulity, a stage where we could not believe the government was asking us not to leave our apartments and we had no choice but to adhere to the rules.

Things fell into place pretty fast after that; starting with the attestation de déplacement dérogatoire the French had a little escape route with the excuse to go wine shopping... we were off to a positive start!

Accompanied by Bob Sinclair's daily lockdown groove sessions on facebook, I followed mini-workshops on photography, branding and instagram editing. I finally got around to putting my Paris blog into print for keepsakes and ended up with eight volumes. I compiled a long overdue photo book and rebooted my recipe blog.

Of course, a bit of shopping online help boost the moral but mostly I was hogging the computer at the turn of midnight to grab a slot for our groceries to be delivered 10 days later!

Marks and Spencers Food hall became my new favourite place and the lady at the Lindt chocolate shop my new best friend! My Swiss wine and chocolate stocks have drastically dwindled...

I prepared my tax declaration documentation, caught up with my medical bills and took hours to claim reimbursements for flights. Trips to Madrid, Lugano, Ibiza, Naples and Croatia all went down the drain.

We had yet another water leak above our flat (are we at number 5 or 6?!?) and I am rather proud I managed a floor refurbishment in our Swiss flat via Whatsapp. It looks great on photo and I can't wait to see the real thing. Keeping my fingers crossed and trusting in Swiss efficiency.

We met many of our neighbours while cheering on the health workers every evening across our balconies and collectively sang "Happy Birthday" to a little toddler who will forever have a place in my memory for making the most noise every evening with his pan & wooden ladle and his gusto for being allowed to do so.

And then there was the exercise... determined not to let my gourmandise get the better of me, I have been working out nearly every day making the most of what the internet has to offer. French Bikram yoga classes, Californian barre, Spanish zumba and bi-lingual core sessions have all found their way into my weekly routine as has a cathartic run through the streets of Paris at the end of the day!

This period, however, will be remembered as the zooming and tic-tocing months. We were not going to go down without a fight, so if we were not allowed out we were inviting the world into our living room. Many a virtual aperò - with enthusitstic dress-ups at the beginning - was enjoyed with friends and lots of giggles accompanied the tic toc family filming trials.

Oh, and how could I forget the suntanning sessions in front of the window on our living room floor?!? Club Med is nothing compared to our family programme...

May 14, 2020

Bad habits die hard

It's like lowering yourself into a hot bath... you know you have been looking forward to this but the water is so hot it makes you slow down.... that is what "déconfinement" feels like! As France slowly lifts the lid on gradual virus deconfinement plan, French people have been told by the Prime Minister that they are going to have to live with the virus.

Monday morning was a timid start with streets still quiet and little traffic. By lunchtime, however, some chanting, shouting and honking had caught my attention. I leaned over the balcony to realize we had a mini-demonstration panning out in front of an embassy on the opposite side of the road. Over one hundred people, six police vans and three fire engines were parked below our building. Seriously?!?

By Monday night Paris' mayor had prohibited the consumption of alcohol along the Seine embankment since thousands of youngsters had gathered along the river banks to celebrate their new-found freedom.

By Wednesday the main traffic arteries into town were blocked again and I got told off rudely by a bike rider for walking in the road along the sidewalk rather than on in... a habit I adopted during my grocery shopping sprees these past two months to avoid getting to close to other pedestrians.

This is what I call a brutal kick-start back into reality. Oh, did I mention... now that we are finally allowed out we are back to grey Parisian skies and one-digit degrees?!?

Furthermore, we are only allowed to travel within a 100km radius of our homes which doesn't even get me to Reims to sip some French champagne!!!

Day one post-lockdown

What will the new normal look like?

Where has all the sunshine gone?

Back to the hustle and bustle of city life...
or just your regular Monday morning!

May 10, 2020

10 questions to ask yourself to take stock after confinement

We are all looking forward to going back to "normal", even if we are not quite sure what the new normal will look like. The faster we let go of expectations of “normal,” the faster we adapt. This period of confinement has allowed us to figure out what is actually important to us and focus on that.
Here are ten questions to ask yourself after confinement.

1.) What have you stopped doing and don't want to start again?
2.) What did you start and want to save time for now?
3.) What do you miss the most? Make your top 3.
4.) What didn't you do when you absolutely wanted to get started?
5.) Is it too late? Is it really important?
6.) What did you find out about yourself?
7.) Are you surprised?
8.) Is your personal experience of containment generally positive or negative? Why?
9.) What expectations of “normal” are you letting go of today?
10.) What beauty are you creating, cultivating, or inviting in today?

May 5, 2020

No-one in town

We are into our eighth week of self-confinement, quarantine, staying home, io resto a casa, ensemble à la maison - whatever you want to call it - and it is becoming very monotonous. BUT, I dare complain, it has been a quiet and peaceful two months in Paris. Its community once again has overcome their daily frustrations of living in a metropole and shown their unique sense of resilience and solidarity in times of a crisis. 

It seems 24% of Parisians have skipped town and the capital is emptier than during the month of August but the rest of us have been unusually friendly even chatty proving an unprecedented neighbourhood vibe where residents perch at their windows greeting each other.

Monday the country's confinement will be lifted and life will slowly reboot, however, with the mobs of tourists gone the city once again will belong to the Parisians.

May 2, 2020

Closed and abandoned

With the French capital in lockdown for nearly seven weeks due to the coronavirus, it feels like you could have the most visited sites in the world all to yourself... if only you were allowed out!

What a wonderful opportunity it would be to admire the city without noise and tourists. At the same time, however, it would no doubt be a sad sight, as if the city of lights were abandoned. 

The most spectacular images come from Human Rights Square at Trocadero looking out at the Eiffel Tower, a spot that is close to home and therefore accessible to me after 7pm, but many other places must look like the photos below which I have taken over the years...

One more week and we'll be allowed to venture out again and explore the beauty of this city without the crowds and tourbuses blocking the views. With a bit of patience and good behaviour the cafés and bistros might open up for the summer?!?

The photo above is the only one taken this past month.
Just look at the weather!

April 29, 2020

An unusual communication campaign

The coronavirus is also fought through communication and prevention. Paris' mayor has been using all the means of the city's display, such as information panels, social networks and media to mobilize and inform Parisians about the situation in real time. Here are a few examples I came across on my morning jogs around the deserted avenues...

The beautiful days have never been so beautiful

Thank you. Take care of caregivers! Lets support them.

Neighbourhood spirit

Parisians in Exodus (this is actually an exhibit currently closed)

Protecting ourselves together while protecting others: Stay home

The right moves to limit the circulation
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