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Living in Confinement & Life in Lockdown Paris

In 2020, Paris had two lockdowns (lockdown is known as confinement in French). During this time, I wrote several articles during about my experiences of living in Paris during covid lockdowns. I also wrote about the period between lockdowns, in an article called post-confinement France, which is now also listed here.

For both lockdowns, I lived alone, and during the first lockdown, I didn’t see or speak with anyone I knew for over two months. It was one of the hardest and most stressful periods of my life, and not just because my entire business (this travel blog that you’re reading right now) was literally falling apart at the seams.

I had just moved to a new country and was really lost in life. Here’s a summary of all of the articles I wrote during the Paris lockdowns and what life was like in France during confinement.

What’s it like to live in the very heart of the most beautiful city in the world during a lockdown? What’s it like to stroll the streets? To pass your favourite haunts, only to see them shuttered up? Well, living in the very heart of the most beautiful city in the world amidst a global pandemic simultaneously feels like both a blessing and a curse.

On the one hand, many of us are completely alone, in very small spaces, with no access to our own outdoor space. On the other hand, we are lucky to experience intense moments of solidarity with each other every moment of the day.

From acknowledging smiles and waves from once reclusive neighbours to the 8 PM nightly ritual of clapping for those working on the frontlines to notes left by strangers for strangers, all across the city.

Of course, on the rare occasions I do leave my apartment, I am once more rewarded with the sheer beauty of Paris and the opportunity to fall in love with the French capital all over again; the little sidewalk cafés (now shuttered, of course), centuries old medieval churches, and the way the evening light dances across the Haussmmannian architecture.

First confinement in Paris (1st Paris lockdown)

17 March 2020 – 11 May 2020

Well… This is one of the hardest introductions I’ve ever had to write. To be honest, it’s now been over two weeks of lockdown in Paris (we’ve been in lockdown since Midday Tuesday 17th here in France) and I keep coming back to this post again and again. I don’t know what to say. However, what I’m not going to do is to rehash the numbers or statistics or advice here. For that, head to an official source.

I don’t know where to start. Like the rest of you, my world has been turned upside down, and then shaken up several times more. As it turns out, however, I have written quite a lot over the past few weeks, only it’s been on Social Media instead of my blog.

As such, my most up to date thoughts can now be found on my Instagram, though I’ve organised my thoughts below as each ‘Instagram caption’ turns out to fit rather neatly into an aspect of my current life. 

parisian wine thoughts

On living in Paris during confinement

I used to say that, no matter what, I wanted to be in Paris. I even chose my university course, went through several breakups, and built an entire business just to move here. Well, it seems like this happened since I’m now here in Paris (albeit very alone), even during a worldwide pandemic.

Even if my world has shrunk to 30 metres squared, even if I have no idea what my life will look like in a day, let alone a year, I’m finding joy in the smallest of places. I still consider myself incredibly fortunate and remind myself of this every day. I love Paris and I get to be here, even now.

Dangling my feet out the window while reading a book, writing more than I’ve ever done so in my life, caring for my plants, a perfectly crisp glass of rosé, calling a long lost friend, the warm sun on my face, catching the eye of a cute guy in the grocery shop (he was very cute!), waving at previously unfamiliar neighbours. 

The world is different and not in a good way, but I’m trying to navigate it best as I can, just like everyone else. What I do know is this: we’re all here together and we’re better when acting together (even if that is together from a distance). Last but not least, I think we can all agree: thank f*** for the internet! 

looking out of a parisian window

On staying positive during confinement

Part of me wants to stay positive, while the other part spends a lot of time spiralling into existential dread and despair. It has to also be said that what were once existential dread thoughts are now the reality of our day to day lives.

I try and limit my news intake to a handful times a day because, while the situation is serious, it’s hard to balance seriousness with being able to function through the day. I don’t do this to downplay the situation, I simply do this so that I can carry on looking after myself and those around me- from afar, of course!

Nevertheless, I try to keep creating content, to carry on with the bits of life (and freedom) I have left, because there seems to be little other choice. I spend a lot of time calling my Mum and I’ve discovered that it’s okay to find this whole experience hard.

We can’t be too hard on ourselves for finding this hard, it’s a new and scary experience for all of us. The statistics still floor me every day. Without the ambient city noise, we notice sirens a lot more… But I’m sure you already have the same in your life, so I will not dwell on this.

wine in paris

On human contact and being alone during confinement

I’ve left my apartment exactly two times since confinement began; both times to frequent the grocery store, and both times because I’d completely run out of fruit and wine! As of a few days ago, it’s been exactly three weeks since I was within 2 metres of another person.

It’s a very weird feeling to have. Back then, if you had told me I would no longer be allowed to brush past a stranger on the street, allowed to hug a friend, allowed to kiss a boy I like… I would have thought you were crazy.

Now, it’s my reality… And it turns out it’s actually an okay experience. Sure, there are ups and downs. There are good days…. And, unfortunately, there are bad days. However, I’ve also started to count my blessings more than I’ve ever done so in my life. There is no choice to be in this situation, and the only thing I have control over is my outlook on the situation.

I feel grateful to be surrounded (virtually and from afar) by so many wonderful family and friends. I get to sleep in a comfy bed each night. I still get to spend my days making content I’m passionate about. I can still enjoy the sunset (something which has since become one of my greatest passions), wave at my neighbours, laugh at ridiculous memes on the internet.

paris at sunset

On loneliness in confinement

I’m not going to lie, this is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’m getting a bit sick of memes on the internet saying ‘all you have to do is sit on your couch’. Yes, that is what many of us have to do but it’s not as ‘simple’ as it sounds.

For many, like me, it’s unclear when we’ll next come into contact with another person. And while those are the cards we’ve been dealt, it’s still something we all personally have to deal with.

Prior to this, I found it hard to be alone with my thoughts, I found it hard to like myself as a person. I’ve always had pretty severe anxiety and my two greatest fears of abandonment and having to spend swathes of time with myself have come true.

Now, I have to deal with both, all the while dealing with a worldwide crisis and fears for everyone I love. And while this is a minor issue in the grand scheme of things, I’ve had to quickly learn who I am, how to deal with my dark thoughts, and how to cope with… Myself. 

This afternoon, at the grocery store, I chatted to the first person I’ve spoken to in weeks. The cashier at my grocery store was very friendly and even complimented my French accent; even the smallest of interactions can make my day and give me hope for the future.

I also give myself plenty of treats; weekend pizza nights, candles, an extra coffee in the morning. Small things are a great accompaniment to phone calls and waving at neighbours.

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On being confined to a small space

My view all day every day is the same. It’s beautiful but I also enjoy variety in my life. My previous pre-pandemic entire life feels very far away, like some distant dream. I often wonder what we’ll all be like when this is all over… I wish I didn’t have to go through communal doors to access the outside world and I wish that I even had a balcony, let alone a garden.

But when this is all said and done, I still feel lucky. I can sit and watch the sunset from the comfort of my home, I have plenty of wine (though my wine delivery is lost somewhere lol!), I talk to more people I have in my entire life, I have a nice space to exist in, and I have dozens of plants to care for.

We all miss the outside world and I’ve spent the past week questioning what to do next (read: drinking copious glasses of wine and lying in various places in my apartment). However, I need to be productive.

It’s weird when you’re a travel content creator and suddenly you can’t even leave your flat, just because you feel like it. As well as everyone else, I wonder how I’ll pay for future bills, but I try to focus on one problem at a time.

I’ve joked that my ex boyfriend broke up with me because he found it exhausting that I find it really hard to sit at home and ‘just watch Netflix’. I used to always have to be on a road trip, on a hike, seeing a new church/ museum.

Well… That break up story is not a joke but I’ve also discovered that staying at home is okay, but more importantly, necessary. As of a few days ago, I’ve been creating content like crazy, all in the name of keeping myself distracted. I’m a quarantent creator (content from quarantine). 

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On feelings about post confinement life

I can personally see some of the light beam (not the sparkles or the Eiffel Tower itself) here Chez Sophie and it makes me look forwards to the day we can all enjoy the wonders of the world once more. 

Nowadays, the sunset is one of the only things I can still enjoy of the outside world from the safety and comfort of my flat. The sunset is also a reminder that the sun still sets and tomorrow is another day.

Two days ago, I spent the entire day in my bed and was unable to do… Anything. Social Media is a highlights reel of our lives and, even if brings us together at this time, it’s important to remember that it’s still (by and large a highlights reel).

Some days I feel like I can’t see the end of this, that I can’t imagine what the future might be like, or when it might be, and I think that’s normal. These times are so up and down for everyone and we shouldn’t be hard on ourselves for finding it hard.

However, yesterday was a new day and I woke up with this burst of energy as if my thoughts and feelings from yesterday had never happened. Who knows how I’ll feel in tomorrow, in a week… Or even in ten minutes. But, of course, that’s normal.

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How I’m Keeping Busy During Self-Isolation in Paris

If you were wondering how I spend my days in Paris, then, as well as writing more than ever before and charging my phone than I’ve ever had to before (on account of more video calls and phone calls than I’ve ever undertaken in my life,) here is how I typically spend a day.

I update my blogs: I have several websites and, since I still have bills to pay, and since my blogs still get traffic (for now), I spend a lot of my time working on updating old posts, creating new ones, and trying to while away the time in confinement in a somewhat meaning way. 

I create videos: I have a YouTube channel which has, by and large, been neglected for months now. However, since I can’t distract myself by going on dates, going on walks, or literally leaving my apartment, I would like to edit and upload the videos I’ve never got round to finishing!

I look after my plants: I have dozens and dozens of plants in my flat and caring for them, watching them grow, and thrive is one of the greatest joys in my life of today. They’re the only living beings I come into contact with and to have something to care for (and a slice of nature in the heart of the city) and having them makes me feel so grateful!

I video call: Everyone from boys I kind of fancy to my granny, I have never had so many video calls in my life! I spend hours every evening (and during the afternoon if I’m being lazy regarding work) on the phone to long lost friends, to best friends, to boys I’ve dated, to boys I want to date, to my mum, my dad, my sister, my cousins (we have a nightly wine chat), my grandma… I feel so lucky to have so many wonderful people in my life.

I keep a diary: Until recently, I never called myself a writer, in spite of the fact that that’s how I’ve spent the past few years making money (my sole income to be precise). However, now, more than ever, I’m using words to make sense of my reality and I encourage you to do the same. Keeping a diary can be an alleviating thought and feelings dump which you might not have realised you otherwise needed. 

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Post confinement 1 in France (life between lockdowns)

Even if I wear a mask every time I leave the house, I finally feel like I can finally breathe again. Strict lockdown is over in France as of the 11th May. We can go up to 100km from home and meet small groups of people we don’t live with. More stores are open, though cafés and restaurants remain closed (many are offering takeaway services).

What’s it like to live in the very heart of the most beautiful city in the world during this period? What’s it like to stroll the streets? To pass your favourite haunts, only to see them shuttered up? Well, living in the very heart of the most beautiful city in the world amidst a global pandemic simultaneously feels like both a blessing and a curse.

On the one hand, many of us have been completely alone, in very small spaces for weeks on end, with no access to our own outdoor space. On the other hand, we are lucky to experience intense moments of solidarity with each other every moment of the day. I also feel lucky to see Paris every day.

From acknowledging smiles and waves from once reclusive neighbours to the 8 PM nightly ritual of clapping for those working on the frontlines to notes left by strangers for strangers, all across the city, there are small acts of kindness everywhere you look…

Post Confinement France: Life After Lockdown in Paris

What is life like post lockdown in Paris?

In the past four days, I’ve clocked up close to 80km strolling the streets of the city. A couple of days ago, I even went on a walk with a friend and, having not seen anyone I know in two months, it was one of the best and most emotional moments of my life. I burst into tears on the spot (and, funnily enough, it’s pretty hard to wipe away tears when you can’t touch your face)

Today… I took my camera through the streets of Paris for the first time in two months. It felt amazing! Of course, psychologically, it’s also much easier to stay at home (apart from walks) now that we have a « choice » to leave our homes whenever we want to and we aren’t living with a permission slip to leave the house. I finally feel a little of my brain fog clearing and, once more, it’s easier to write.

Last night, I walked with a friend through the streets of Montmartre. Though largely empty, this isn’t a new phenomenon. Even in normal times you could see easily enjoy empty streets should you opt to visit at sunrise or late at night.

What truly shocked me is that pollution levels have fallen so low in the city, from lack of cars and other fuel guzzling transportation, that you can see further than ever before from the Parvis of the Sacré-Coeur.

Post Confinement France: Life After Lockdown in Paris
Post Confinement France: Life After Lockdown in Paris

Mask wearing in the city

As of writing, it’s not mandatory to wear a mask in all public places. However, it is mandatory to wear a mask on public transport here (and you can only take public transport during rush hours if you have a valid form and reason to be using it).

I’m lucky to live in the heart of the city so I’m walking everywhere, hence how I’ve walked so many kilometres in the past few days! More and more shops are making wearing a mask mandatory and, to be honest, this is the fourth day that I’ve worn one every time I leave the house.

The thought of taking it on and off in the outside world stresses me out and so I just correctly fit it at home and don’t touch my face until a few hours later when I’ve come home and thoroughly washed my hands.

I’ve purchased myself three cloth masks from a local pharmacy and spent €1 more per mask to have a cute pattern as I find it easier to wear (psychologically) if I have a nice pattern and do my eye makeup nicely.

Post Confinement France: Life After Lockdown in Paris

Going shopping

Going into any enclosed space that isn’t my apartment gives me a lot of anxiety so I’ve limited my visits to grocery stores and pharmacies. I feel fortunate to work from home, even if (being in the tourism industry) my business has obviously taken quite the hit and is pretty much on fire!

Unfortunately, my (no longer) trusty Mac gave out the night before confinement ended. As such, I bought a new one at the store, which meant having a look at what non-essential shopping is like now!

My new laptop’s keyboard is AZERTY (the French one) and so I’ve joked that I’m truly committing to my life in France. Even if I use my phone in AZERTY, my old laptop was a QWERTY keyboard and so I’m slowly but surely learning all of the positions of the symbols as I type this to you!

I was impressed at how many measures that have been taken when I went to pick up my new laptop at Fnac. The one I visited was by Saint Lazare and is in a shopping mall. Upon entrance, a security guard squirts a dollop of hand sanitiser into your hands.

When you go into Fnac, inside the mall, you once more have to use hand sanitiser at the entrance. Mask wearing is mandatory. All cashiers are behind plexi glass screens. The new normal.

Post Confinement France: Life After Lockdown in Paris

Closed venues

Of course, deconfinement is simply entering into a new phase. I’ve seen quite a few people commenting saying ‘Paris isn’t Paris’ and ‘it doesn’t feel normal’. It certainly doesn’t feel good- it simply feels a little better than before- and there are more stores closed than are open.

Of course, Paris will never feel like Paris until the cafes and bars open up once more, people spill into the streets, and you can hear laughter echo in the little alleyways into the early hours of the morning. They say that up to a quarter of Parisians left Paris just before lockdown. Since last week, the streets have been markedly busier, though it’ still pretty empty.

At midday, I went to see the Louvre. the sun was shining and the reflections of the glass pyramid were reflecting onto the surrounding historical walls of the former palace. It was beautiful, but there was also less than a dozen of us there to enjoy it. It certainly feels strange to see the city void of visitors and sans tourists.

Post Confinement France: Life After Lockdown in Paris

A final note…

Maybe it sounds silly but I can’t believe I completed a confinement on my own! Two months confined to a 1km radius of my house and two months of seeing no one I know, even from afar. I even gave myself a quarantine haircut and resisted giving myself a quarantine ear piercing (which seems prudent now that I’m affixing a mask to my face via my ears every day).

Second confinement in Paris (2nd Paris Lockdown)

30 October 2020 – 1 December 2020

I spend my days reading, writing, video calling friends, calling my mum, tending to my plants, and trying to avoid eating all my snacks/ junk food in one go. I send and share a lot of memes. I surprisingly haven’t been able to watch any TV shows or films.

I keep a diary and update it every night. Each evening at 8 PM, I plan to join my fellow Parisians in clapping, singing, and cheering from our windows and balconies… This new world has a routine and, even though it’s weird, and different, and often sad, life continues. I’m starting to learn how to navigate it.

Just this morning, I watched my neighbours have a dispute via balcony. The rest of us sat at our windows, watched, and waved at one another. There are ups and downs, though plenty of feelings of solidarity. Already the thought of going for a photo walk, hopping on a train, or seeing a new destination feels so faraway to me (sorry for the pun- sadly being alone all day, every day, is making me think I’m funnier than I am since no one can tell me otherwise).

It’s okay though, it’s only temporary.

It feels weird that my only communication tool with the outside world is the very same tool which is giving me plenty of bad news and anxiety. Yes, I clap with fellow Parisians and wave at my neighbours across the street, but in all honesty, whereas I used to complain about social media platforms increasing my anxiety, in times like this they’re a lifeline for people like us who will not be within direct contact with anyone for weeks or maybe months. I’m learning a lot about perspective and community. I think life will be different after, many of us are opening up to others in ways we never have before. 

It’s okay though, it’s not forever.

Last night, I sat and watched the sunset from my windowsill with a can of coca cola. I’ve worked out that I can kind of sit outside if I kind of perch on the windowsill; outdoor time is something I took for granted before and now the fresh air is something I savour every moment of. If I enjoy a drink sat, watching the outside world, I call it ‘windowsill wine’. Sunset was beautiful. Many of my neighbours also sat and watched and we smiled and waved at one another.

At 8 PM a new tradition started: many of my neighbours started clapping and cheering out of their windows/ from their balconies. Many of my friends in other parts of the city are saying the same happened in their arrondissements too. It was one of the most moving moments of my life.

Even in these uncertain times, we’re all in this together.

This morning I ate potato chips for breakfast (because I felt like it), which is really unhealthy but not a big deal in the grand scheme of things! I daydream a lot and am planning for a future where I live in the South of France together with a dog and my sister. Things I was unsure of a few days ago are clearer now, and things which seemed so sure are murky. Things I took for granted just a few days ago are now out of reach.

It’s okay though, it’s only temporary.

As of midday yesterday (Tuesday 17th), we are in lockdown/ partial confinement. We are only allowed to go out for essentials (groceries, work if you cannot work remotely, light exercise, the pharmacy, etc).

If we need to go out, we need to have a printed permission slip on our person which can be downloaded online (and hand write it ourselves if we don’t have a printer). It must be signed and dated and you must be stating that you are out for one of the valid/ permissible reasons, otherwise you face a fine.

It feels weird that we need to have a note/ ‘permission slip’ to leave our own homes and that we can’t just go out because we feel like it. Necessary, but still a strange feeling. Yes, we can go out for light exercise in our neighbourhoods or for groceries, but it’s for sure not the same kind of freedom to wander around as before.

Even if you live with other people, you can only go out in ones, never in twos, even to do something like walking the dog. Yes, it’s necessary and I was staying inside before anyway. Only I felt like I had a choice, even if in reality I didn’t (since social distancing is the best policy).

It’s okay though, it’s not forever.

I am slowly learning perspective. This is hard on everyone. However, I have many plants to care for, enough food, and LOTS of wine. I receive messages from loved ones around the world 24/7. These are the first few days I’ve ever spent the entirety of the time in my apartment, also alone (but I often remind myself it’s only a physical alone-ness. Friends and family are just a text, message, or phone call away). It’s okay. I am lucky to work from home and I am lucky that I won’t have to be someone making incredibly difficult decisions in the forthcoming months.

It’s all about perspective.

Tonight, tomorrow night, the next night, and the night after that, I will join my fellow Parisians in clapping, singing, and cheering from our veluxes, windows, and off our balconies. Every night at 8 PM we will be cheering and clapping together. Even if we’re physically apart, life continues. We are literally all in this together.

Stay safe and keep in touch with loved ones. As ever, much love from Paris.

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Wednesday 25th of March 2020

Dear Sophie, I love your blog. I try to come to Paris each year and I use your articles for inspiration for my plans. In the Netherlands we (luckely) don't have a lock down, but its very much a like: we only go out if necessary. Keep up your good work, stay safe! And hope to read lots of articles about the best city of Europe. Lot of love, Marjolein

Tony Powell

Wednesday 18th of March 2020

Having been in Paris and Bordeaux for a little business but mostly pleasure, we were lucky enough to leave Paris on Thursday night, after another fantastic stay in Paris.

Arriving back in Brisbane on Saturday morning 24 hours before a forced 14 day isolation for anyone returning from overseas was implemented. We decided to put ourselves in voluntary isolation for 14 days, we don't have the same atmosphere as you guys in Paris. No clapping or singing from the windows or balconies, that is the sort of spirit and culture we miss so much about our time living in France and a lot of people don't get about the French.

Stay safe and go to your window each night.

Cheers, Tony et Wendy

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