Loosening the Lockdown in Southern France

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Social distancing — on the shore, in the water..

In the United States folks are celebrating the long Memorial Day weekend. In France, it’s a long holiday weekend, too. Thursday was a religious holiday, the Ascension, celebrated 40 days after Easter when Christians believe the body of Christ ascended into heaven.  Many take Friday off as well and enjoy a four-day break at the beginning of summer.

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Menton beach on Ascension Thursday,

This year they can’t venture far – only 100 kilometers from home. But, that’s better than just one kilometer which is what it was up until May 11 when the Covid lockdown restrictions began to ease. Stores have opened.  It is mandatory to  wear masks on public transportation and in shops, offices and places of worship which opened this weekend. Primary schools have reopened. However, these eased restrictions apply to green zones only – where we are. Parts of northern France are in a red zone where the virus still rages. There strict restrictions still prevail.

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Chinese mask for me.  Gov’t issue mask for Bob,.

Citizens were issued two free masks. I am sure our freebies will stop all germs, but they may suffocate us. They are large and made of two layers of unbleached muslin. One set of strings loops above the ear.  The other ties behind the head. I wore it once, but I could not get it untied. I have never been a whiz at knots, and had obviously overdone it.  I had a mask around my neck until I got home and cut if off.

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Filippo sports the Chinese mask.

We are still waiting for masks sent from the U.S. Friend Bev, a talented seamstress, sent some at least two months ago. My sister-in-law made masks, too, and sent us some. My step -daughter sent some. None have arrived. I assume it is because there are few planes flying between France and the U.S. Not to worry. You can now buy masks here, although that was not the case prior to May 11 when none were available. And, I ordered some which arrived in my mailbox two weeks ago. They appear to be Chinese..a label in Chinese. We can get Chinese masks but none from the U.S. ???

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Boule is back.

Now that we have some freedom, social distancing is supposed to be de rigeur at all times when out. As I observed, that is not always the case. The French, especially here in the south, are obsessed with the game of boule. The boulodrome near us has reopened to record numbers. All seem to be overjoyed to be back at their favorite pastime and not worried about social distancing.

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Beach where I swam last Wednesday — almost deserted.

Beaches – it’s up to local mayors to decide to open or not. I was thrilled to learn the beach closest to us had opened, but only for walks and swimming. No lounging and sunbathing. OK by me. So, on Wednesday I ventured down the big hill to the Mediterranean, placed a folded up towel on the edge of the water, put on my beach shoes (ours is a pebble beach, not sand) and took the plunge. Cold. Water temperature was 17º C, about 63º F. It did not matter. I felt invigorated, revived, elated.

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Our favorite spot.  Sit on the wall and enjoy a snack. Umbrellas offer shade.

I had the beach almost to myself that day.  There were very few swimmers. Some kids splashed at water’s edge watched over by parents sitting on the shore.

I loved the water and the solitude. It is no longer that way. The holiday brought more to the beach, but no sunbathers and all observing social distancing. It was also a welcome surprise to find the kiosks near the water open for business, selling drinks, snacks, sandwiches, even burgers. However, no tables and chairs.  Find a wall or bench to sit on. We did just that at our “happy place,” our favorite kiosk above a rocky shore with a view I cherish – the sea with the Maritime Alps in the background.

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Bob at our happy place.  Later he had a Flipper burger (salmon).  Yes, we were happy.

On Thursday, the holiday, we drove to nearby Menton and its beach. There were lots more people on this beach, as well as many sauntering along the beach promenade. There was only one entrance to the beach, and it was controlled by police. I did see a few sunbathers stretched out on beach towels, but only a few.

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Police at Menton beach,

We have been taking longer walks. I estimate 97 percent of people outdoors are without masks (us included). Masks are only required indoors. However, I was a bit surprised yesterday when I went to our neighborhood mini-supermarket. Several customers were not wearing masks. The cashier did not wear a mask. As this is a small store, social distancing is impossible. I proceeded  to the butcher shop. It is tiny. Only three customers are admitted at a time. Yet, the staff behind the counter did not wear masks. Another customer was also mask-less. However, walking home I spotted a foursome sitting on a bench – all wearing masks.IMG_7804

What is happening in France is probably no different than what is happening in the U.S. and elsewhere as the new normal – masks and social distancing – takes hold. Not all obey. But, at least here there are no armed protesters.

Hopefully more freedom is around the corner. Restaurants are slated to open on June 2. Most restaurants around here have sizable outdoor areas, but it will be interesting to see how they cope with social distancing. We hope we will be able to travel for more than the 100 kilometer limit. We hope the border with neighbor Italy will open on June 15 as predicted. We miss Italy where we love to shop and soak in the joyous ambiance.

Mostly we hope that Covid cases and deaths will continue to decline, that the new freedoms will not reverse this trend, and that all will obey the restrictions and guidelines to keep us all safe.

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Beautiful view.  Beautiful water.

 

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Simba refused to wear a mask. Her sister, Oprah, went into hiding,

Comments are welcome and appreciated.  I love feedback.  Click below then scroll  down and add your thoughts.

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23 thoughts on “Loosening the Lockdown in Southern France”

  1. Yay for freedom! for ocean swims! for favorite treats! to be able to visit memorable places! Some people are more socially kind and practice safe distancing than others. I’m learning to “let go” of those who don’t feel a need to practice and extend social kindness as we navigate a new “normal”. A work in progress…every day! May you and Bob continue to explore and enjoy time outside. Can’t wait to hear of your June 15th update. Hugs to you! Be well.

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  2. Very good to read your update, Leah, to know what’s happening in your part of the world and how you and Bob are keeping enjoyment in your life. An understandable but novel experience this tale reminds me of is my feeling of connection to people all around this very big world as we all try to adjust to the common threat together. Hoping your news keeps getting better, you get more chances for swims and visits to Italy. Stay well, much love.

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    1. We are enjoying more freedom. This week we dined in a restaurant. Today a short train ride to meet a friend for lunch and then take a coastal walk together. All good, but we must continue to be vigilant. Stay safe and healthy. Love to you and Brian.

      We

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  3. Here in Boulder you can’t get in a store without a mask and most locals seem to have adapted without perceiving it as an undue hardship or an attempt by the state to deprive us of our liberty.

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  4. I so enjoyed reading your blog, and finding out what’s going on in your neck of the woods. My favorite image was Filippo jauntily wearing his mask. Good Boy!. Everyone’s reentry story has a regional and personal twist and it’s so interesting to compare. Only time will tell us what worked best.Meanwhile, everyone should continue to social distance for a long, long time, despite easing of restrictions. It’s about we, not me!

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  5. An interesting and informative tale, Leah, as usual. Here in thre desert we are observing Memorial Day ceremonies both on-line and from memories of past ceremonies. AND, yesterday was the 44th anniversary of the Judgment of Paris when a couple of California wines outpointed prestigious French wines. And to honor National Chardonnay Day, Joan and I are enjoying a Macon-Villages fro m Louis Jadot.

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  6. Your muslin masks look a bit bulky, Leah. My freebie here in Beaulieu is a light black silk one. Yours probably do a better job, but mine may be prettier! Love your masked cat. So glad you are able to swim now. Beaches here are still closed, but I would not be going in the water anyway. I am not as brave as you, and I will wait for warmer seas.
    Lovely pictures and great commentary on the situation here in southern France.

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    1. Most are not wearing masks outdoors. Those two stores mentioned are an anomaly. The larger supermkts where I usually shop require masks. You are not allowed to enter without a mask. They also control the number of shoppers allowed to enter. So, you wait in line. I haven’t been to many shops, but those I have fall into the latter category: masks required.

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  7. They’re easing up on restrictions here in Maryland, too, but protests continue. Luckily Bill and I have done well despite the pandemic and stay-at-home order. We have plenty of food, good things to read, and a nice neighborhood for walking. I’ve been trying new recipes and found several keepers. Thanks for the carrot recipe. We miss seeing friends but Zoom gatherings keep us in touch with many. Your beaches and mountains are gorgeous. Nice to hear you are enjoying a return to favorite places.

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    1. As things ease all over, let’s hope we stay on the path of progress. I found plenty to do during our “confinement,” but am happy with a bit more freedom. Zoom has been a blessing for us, too. I have not been too thrilled with my new recipes (Carrots, Eggs Curry, and Mark Bittman’s simple roast chicken are exceptions). I’ll try some more. Bon Appetit.

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  8. The northwest in the US is struggling still. I find I am tired of ordering online. I miss music and friends. We sometimes see friends out of doors. Musical groups in Port Townsend are trying fb concerts. A bit lame. We spend time in the neighborhood and our state park walking dogs. I don’t do any of my assorted volunteer works and I miss them. It’s not horrible. I think it’s easier on us than young people. France’s approach is interesting. Thanks, along with Turkey and Greece, southern France is one of my places I identify with. Past lives, perhaps. Stay well.

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    1. Thanks for the update on your part of the world, Helen. I am not thrilled with ordering on line either. Not good for the environment, nor local businesses which need help now. It will get better. Meanwhile, enjoy those beautiful dogs and healthy walks. Our neighborhood park has reopened. It is small, but a soothing place to walk.

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  9. Thanks for this, Leah. So happy for you that you can swim and sit on the wall enjoying the glorious view. Here, too, in Corona Del Mar,
    Ca, things are opening up with masks and no masks. (Seems to be a political statement here rather than a health one. Stupid.) stay well. Gloria

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Thanks so much, Leah…lovely to see you guys relaxing at your favorite spot along your gorgeous seaside in such marvelous weather. Appreciate the report on the masks…here in St. Remy–with very few exceptions–haven’t seen any merchants/staff not wearing a mask. As you said, come 2 June, will be interesting to see how restos will cope. Stay safe, well and hopeful! Oh, and chapeau to you for taking the plunge!

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    1. Yes, it’s good to be out and about — if only a bit. I am especially happy we can venture down to the sea. I look forward to more swims, and more visits to our happy place. I will not go back to that supermarket. Masks are important.

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