Coronavirus: Paris returns to cafe life with new normal

"I've been waiting for this," she said. "To be surrounded by people, not to be alone anymore!"

Mathilde had dressed for the occasion: a printed dress, perfectly styled hair.

Public life here has always demanded a little extra effort. For its cafes and restaurants that means new rules on seating, new cleaning procedures, hand sanitiser everywhere you look.

Many people have expressed relief that Paris's bars and cafes are open again; their terraces full.

There was something about the emptiness of this city, in particular, during lockdown that felt especially poignant, says Joan Dejean, an author and historian of French culture, because the destiny of Paris was to be seen: "Paris was intentionally constructed for people in the streets, to be viewed, to be appreciated visually," she told me.

"If there are no pedestrians looking at everything, from the gardens to the great houses to the Ile St Louis, they lose their raison d'être."


During the lockdown, she says, there were two cities that were particularly photographed for their emptiness: Venice and Paris. Venice, to show what the city looked like without tourists; Paris, to show how difficult it was to recognise the city without people enjoying it.




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