Summer In The Time Of COVID-19
We talk so much about travel and going abroad here at Live and Invest Overseas that it’s unusual to find ourselves stuck home all summer. On the upside, I’m discovering some unexpected pleasures of our staycation…
Summertime is in full bloom here in Paris, yet it’s been a blissfully mild one so far. We’ve rarely seen days above 80—a stark contrast to last year, when temperatures were breaking records across Europe. This year, the weather has been about as perfect as you could hope for… sunny and warm, but breezy with low humidity. Nights get cool again like clockwork, continually relieving us whenever a hotter day does break through.
As of a couple weeks ago, Paris all but shut down, as did much of Europe. The annual exodus that has Parisians fleeing from the city begins in late July and typically lasts until late August. Mom-and-pop shops and restaurants close, putting up signs saying they’ll see you in September… doctors stop taking appointments… and the most common farewell you hear this time of year is “Bonne vacances,” knowing you won’t meet again for a few weeks.
While Paris empties of locals this time of year, it’s prime tourist season… or normally would be. But in 2020, the year of coronavirus, there’s nary a soul on the streets (relatively speaking). Parisians are all gone, but they haven’t been replaced by the hordes of foreigners that usually descend on the city from June until late August.
It means that during a typical Parisian summer, the museums are hardly worth going to, a picnic spot or a café table is hard to come by, metros are crammed with confused visitors trying to find their way, and the streets are so packed in Instagram-worthy neighborhoods that you can barely squeeze through. Better to boycott whole districts to avoid the crush.
This year, though, summer comes in the time of COVID-19. And, while I don’t mean to minimize the tragic and far-reaching consequences of this pandemic, it’s the most peaceful I’ve ever seen the city.
Not being able to travel has forced us to take advantage of the city—at what may be its best—over the last few weeks. We do a museum every weekend, and they are practically empty. No giant tour groups blocking the best paintings, and so few visitors that we were able to easily navigate the Louvre even with a stroller—two, in fact, as we went with friends. (Pro Paris Tip: Bringing a stroller will allow you to skip any entrance line in Paris. While most museums don’t allow them inside, the Louvre does.)
I take long walks every day with my dog and stroller, and there’s plenty of room on the streets for us all. Harry and I organize at least one social outing a week with whoever we know is still in Paris. The list has been paltry these last weeks, but we’ve managed to keep up our budding new friendships through park picnics, pétanque tournaments, drinks on the restaurant-boats moored on the Seine, in addition to museum trips.
No matter where we stop to refresh ourselves, there’s always a table—and one that can accommodate a stroller or two at that, which even at low tourist times can be a challenge. Happy Hours have never been more generous. From 3-euro pints to free fries with the purchase of any drink, bars and restaurants are desperate for business, so the specials right now are unprecedented. Meanwhile, the city’s parks are sparsely punctuated by groups or couples laying out on the grass, all well within the limits of proper social distancing.
This is a golden time to enjoy your home town, wherever that may be. While I won’t lie and say that I don’t miss travel, I’ve come to appreciate being in one place for a time.
I urge you to take advantage of the last weeks of summer in whatever way you can. If you feel up for a road trip, great. No need to mess with airports or jetlag. No need to go farther than you feel comfortable in your own car, if that’s all you want to do.
And if you’re not willing to risk leaving home at all, no problem. They say most New Yorkers have never been to the Empire State Building or the Statue of Liberty—it’s perfectly normal to live your whole life in a place and never do what out-of-towners do when they come.
Visit your town’s website or tourism sites related to your home and see what you’ve never done before. There’s sure to be at least a handful of activities, monuments, museums, walking tours, or other fun activities aimed at visitors that you’ve never heard of, let alone tried.
Wherever you go (or stay), you’re not likely to have much competition from other tourists right now, and you may even find deep discounts and other upsides to patronizing businesses that are fighting to keep their doors open.