Week 1

It’s Sunday morning in Paris. We’ve been here for just over a week. Out in our wasteland of an apartment, Reid has found a space to revise Friday’s French lesson, and the kids are talking to their friends back home under the guise of ‘technology’.

It’s been a big week.

We arrived Friday morning into 34 degrees-with-a-mask (immediately regretting merino). We turned the wrong way out of Charles de Gaulle and spent about 30 minutes trying to meet up with our transport — there was no other way to get 10 massive suitcases into town.

Dominique from the New Zealand Embassy met us at the apartment, made coffee and took us through a safety briefing (pickpockets, what to do if you find yourself between the police and a demonstration — answer, walk quickly the other way).

We’ve got a large apartment, 4 bedrooms, 3 living/dining rooms and a kitchen, and 6 items of furniture, mostly lent to us from the Embassy’s stash. The place is beautiful, but the absence of Stuff makes it echo’y and stark. Two of the rooms didn’t even had any light.

Saturday’s mission was to fix some of that up as quickly as possible, so we Uber’d to an Ikea and bought, y’know, some glasses and a bottle opener. But we also took photos of lots of other things, and the next day bought a bunch of it over the internet so it can be delivered. So far, the legs of a desk and some light bulbs have arrived, but we’re hoping for great things this week.

On Sunday Reid and I walked around our nearest park, the Bois de Boulogne, which is massive – various kings used it for their hunting forest, it as Roland Garros, a number of race courses and equestrian sites, lakes, a massive kids park (more on that later) and the totally amazing Fondation Louis Vuitton building, plus lord knows what else.

Then we dragged the kids up La Siene to the Eiffel Tower and wandered around the 7th arrondissement, heading back via a big shopping street (Zara was thrilled).

Okay, I may need to start summarising — we’ve done plenty, and I think you’ve probably got something more interesting to do.

On Monday we trekked up to the Trocadero, across to the Avenue des Champs-Elysees (oooh, an Apple Store) and down to the Lourve. And learned how to take a bus.

On Tuesday we chilled a little, but walked the kids up to their new schools (same school, two different campus).

On Wednesday we attacked the Louvre. (Relatively) empty of crowds, we ticked off the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo and many others.

On Thursday Reid went back to work – her language lessons started at the Australian Compound (where all the Australian diplomats live, in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower). And I started my language lessons. Which was in fact lovely (as Tracey, my teacher, is fabulous). The kids are getting a couple of weeks as well. And the Air Freight arrived! With just the important stuff.

On Friday, more language lessons (they are every day – Reid for 4 hours, I have 2, both of us have homework), and I took the kids up to the Bois de Boulogne to scope out the Jardin d’Acclimatation (which was Saturday’s adventure).

Saturday was the aforesaid Jardin d’Acclimatation. 10 minutes away for us is this huge park-within-a-park, opened by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1860, famous of having a zoo which was largely eaten during the Siege of Paris in 1870, and for replacing that with a human zoo (strange folk from Africa, happily not eaten). It’s now an amusement park with rides, lakes, water play, a small zoo (goats, ponies) and other stuff we didn’t discover. Good times.

And today is Sunday.

So — to answer everyone’s question — how’s the COVID? France is now stretching up to above 4000 new cases every day, which is not good. It’s similar to levels seen in May, just before the full lockdown. But this time it’s different.

In May (and the months leading up to it), nobody really knew how to handle COVID. How to avoid it, and how to treat it. The hospitals were overrun. The death rate spiked. It was grim.

This time, even though the case rate is rocketing, the death rate is very low. I think there are only 200-odd cases in intensive care in the whole country. They know how to treat it better now, and (horrible to say), the rest homes and high-risk groups have already been cleaned out.

But needless to say, there is lots of COVID, and the French stats are heading in the wrong direction, so we’re treating this a little more seriously than when we first arrived. We’ve now stricter with our mask use (listening to Dr. Bloomfield, not re-using them, etc). We’re going to avoid the Metro and buses all together, restricting ourselves to Ubers, bicycles and walking. And we’re going to avoid places where social distancing is not an option — that’s the last Louvre trip for a while, I think.

The school is taking this very seriously, but is still on track to open in a week, though all parent orientation sessions are now on Zoom, and we won’t be allowed near Zara and Zac’s campus (but can escort Sacha onto hers, which is great).

But best they hurry up with the vaccine please.