Paris Awakens

With the reopening of the café terraces, life has returned to the city. Mademoiselle Lili couldn’t wait to go out and enjoy it either.  

But in the Rue Montorgueil, the others beat her to it. When the cafés and restaurants with an outdoor terrace were allowed to reopen after nearly three months, their regular customers didn’t even wait until midday. The night before the reopening, at midnight on the dot, they already gathered at their favourite restaurateur Jean-Luc’s restaurant, “Le Rocher de Cancale”, to celebrate the end of lockdown. I didn’t find out about the party until I was sipping my breakfast coffee at my desk the next morning. I had, however, already highlighted the special day on my calendar too. No way in the world was I going to miss this occasion: a visit to my favourite haunt, the “Le Progrès” in the Rue de Bretagne, was an absolute must for the upcoming evening. 

The moment I entered the bathroom to get ready, I felt like a teenager right before prom. It was time to do away with the Birkenstocks and sweatpants that had become my ‘corona uniform’ throughout lockdown. I went to put on some make-up for the first time in three months, only to discover that my favourite lipstick had completely dried out. I then dried my hair, the style and colour of which had been restored at the first possible appointment with my hairdresser three weeks ago. After spraying some summer fragrance behind my ears, I stood in front of my wardrobe and moved the hangers back and forth to look at my summer dresses. I laid out different options on my bed and tried them on in front of the mirror to find the ideal look to honour the special day and my cheerful mood. I ended up choosing a long wrap dress with a leopard print by Diane von Fürstenberg and my Miu ballerinas.

The streets and pavements of Paris are just as full as always. Life is reclaiming the city. It feels like it’s the end of a war, and the survivors want to do nothing but dance. In fact, I’ve never seen so many smiling Parisians all in one place. To comply with social distancing rules, the restaurants and cafés are even allowed to extend their terraces out onto the street. Between bins and parking cars, beautifully laid tables suddenly appear in the parking spaces for deliveries, and well-dressed guests sit down and wait to be served salad and croque madame. What is a usual situation in other cities has now come to Paris – proper and discreet spacing between individual tables so that you no longer have to sit back to back with your neighbour – and I have to say that I quite like this new normality. Nobody, however, is wearing a mask. As I walk down the narrow streets, winding my way through the tables and people, scepticism therefore starts to infiltrate my initial excitement: Have we really already won the war that Emmanuel Macron was talking about? Or is this just a ceasefire? 

When I get to “Le Progrès”, I have to wave the white flag. Every single table is occupied, and clusters of people are standing in front of the terrace, waiting for a spot to become free. So I’m afraid my chat with my favourite garçons will have to wait, as will the answer to my question: have the prices remained the same or do we all already have to start to pay the price for Corona?

© Silke Bender