Travelling during Covid-19, a concept which seems with the current lockdown, something from another universe. Luckily, I was fortunate enough to travel abroad this summer to Paris with a group of my closest friends, and even with all the changes, it was still an incredible experience.
The whole trip started off strangely: for the whole 8-hour coach journey from London to Paris, I was sitting what seemed miles away from everyone else and was constantly overheating from the mask on my face. I knew then it wouldn’t be like any other trip I had been on before.
Arriving early morning in Paris and seeing the streets empty and serene was eerie. Having the Champs-Élysées completely silent, the usual choirs of tourists buzzing around the Louvre gone and the expected queues waiting to climb the Eiffel Tower somehow distanced and apart, was disorientating. It was hard to disconnect the typical imagery of tourist-laden Paris from the disquiet of the Paris I was witnessing. There was something nice though about the ability to walk about without having to dodge hundreds of people trying to catch a glimpse of the Mona Lisa or snagging a drink next to the Seine. Due to the various opening and closing of the famous tourist attractions, this is actually what we spent the large majority of our time doing: drinking by the Seine. Our days were filled with drinking, eating and relaxing at various points along the river, reminiscing on our first year at Durham and admiring the beautiful architecture of the famous buildings. Despite the distancing between us and other groups of people, it was also lovely to see families, friends and couples enjoying the city after such a long period of time stuck indoors.
One memory which does strike me about the trip was our shopping experience of Galeries Lafayette. The upmarket department store that is usually filled with the sound of excited visitors and happy shoppers was replaced by the constant reminder to wear a mask and keep your distance. The previous act of trying clothes on and experimenting with different outfits was replaced by the fear of touching anything and having to buy it. Definitely not the typical Parisian shopping experience you would expect from the department store.
Clearly, the experience was very different to what was expected, or even close to normal times. However, I don't think I would have changed it. The city was filled with people who had been inside for months and were enjoying being outside. It was filled with families enjoying the public parks and taking advantage of the sunshine. We were more relaxed as we knew there wasn't the usual rush to see the sights and visit all the attractions. We took it slower, as we had wanted to rest and refresh after all the months of being separated.
Being in Paris during the Covid-19 pandemic was far from normal but definitely a trip I will never forget.