My Covid 19 departure March 2020

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Cafe  in Aix en Provence

 

My Covid 19 Departure from France 2020

In the winter of 2020, the Covid 19 pandemic began to circulate the globe. I spent February in Nice, and towards the end of the month, there were stirrings about the spreading disease but no panic.

Nice begins to be aware of the Corona Virus 

On the day of the last Carnaval de Nice parade, the city canceled it due to the pandemic. However, the wind was so strong that most people thought the real reason was the wind and its effect on the giant balloon floats that dominated the parade. There was no panic, no talk of masks or social distancing. I kept my plans to leave Nice on March 1 for a month in Aix en Provence. Life went on as usual in Nice.  I left many new friends behind and vowed to return in 2021. 

In hindsight, we should have been more concerned. Nice is a short train ride to the Italian border, and Italy was a hot spot. Just over the border in Ventimiglia, the weekly market enticed trainloads of Nicois, packed together with Italians looking for bargains. Meanwhile, people were traveling to the Fete du Citron in Menton to see the giant sculptures made of citrus fruit. I attended all the events, heedless of what was happening worldwide – and even in other parts of France.

I never considered cutting my winter in France short and returning home. On March 1, I took the train to Aix en Provence for a month in that beautiful city.

Arriving in Aix en Provence 

On March 12, 2020, I had been in Aix for two weeks when the rumors about the Coronavirus began to worry people, but life went on. People were going about their daily lives eating in cafes, shopping at the market, and strolling outside in the sun. Crowds filled the streets; the weather was sunny and warm. No one was wearing a mask yet.

American Students are called home 

Aix is a college town with many students from all over the world, Americans among them. I started hearing news about the US government calling the students home from studies abroad. This startling news got my attention. I wondered what was going on with this virus. My son was asking me about France’s response to Covid and if people were worried.  It was clear that the US was taking this more seriously, especially as cases were rising in New York City. I still didn’t understand the full impact of the virus. Then my son asked me to return. He was worried that if I got sick, he wouldn’t be able to come to me. I began to understand his worry. However, it wasn’t until I arrived home that I experience the full impact of Covid reality.

Arranging to return to the US 

I started making arrangements to go home. I was unable to change my flight online. Delta/AirFrance was scrambling and had not changed their website to accommodate the kind and number of requests. I was on the phone for 2 hours without getting an answer. Eventually, I went on Twitter asking Air France to help me. I had low expectations, but as it turned out, AF did call me. I changed my flight to return on Sunday, March 15. I had two days to apply for a refund on my rental for the remaining two weeks, get a train reservation for Paris, arrange an early morning taxi to the train station, clean the apartment, and pack. AIRBNB gave me the refund without question.

My Final Day in Aix – Cezanne’s Studio 

With everything arranged, I decided to spend my last day doing some of the things I missed in Aix. I made a final trip to the Saturday markets, made the trek to Cezanne’s Studio on the outskirts of town, and had a last cafe (and carrot cake) in the Librarie on Rue Joseph Cabassol. Finally, I said good-bye to my new French friends.  

Surprisingly everything was business as usual in Aix. However, that night March 14, President Macron announced the closing of France as of midnight. Until then, I thought the US was overreacting, that everything would blow over in two weeks. I was returning because my son was worried about me, but there was no panic.

Taxi, Train, and Flight from Covid France to Covid US

On Sunday morning my taxi arrived at 5 am. The train station was eerily empty, as was the train to Paris. There were three other people in my car; I never saw a controleur (conductor) or any other train personnel. The cafe car was closed.

Arriving at Charles DeGaulle airport I made it to the Air France counter in record time. Paris usually is teeming with travelers; queues are long, security is tedious. I breezed through the airport to the gate. 

There were people at the gates but no happy vacationers. The shops and restaurants were closed. You could buy food, but there were no tables. Fortunately, there were a lot of gate seats available so you could space yourself from others. Still, it was too early for many safety measures to be in place. Boarding was as chaotic as ever. The airport was quiet, people subdued, the world had changed seemingly overnight.

The Final Flight

The plane was about half full, so I sat alone. People wore masks to board and while moving around but not at their seats. There was the usual food and drink, but the atmosphere was markedly different. No happy travel talk. Everyone just wanted to get home.  

Arrival in Boston and life under Covid 19 

I arrived in Boston that Sunday, and Covid 19 reality hit. I was to quarantine at my son’s house. My granddaughter’s school had just closed, and their neighbors had agreed that the children would not play together, even outside. We were all prisoners in our homes. The news was heavy with death and dying from Covid. 

However, we were the lucky ones. Both my sons continued to work remotely. Eventually, my granddaughter’s school started remote teaching. Zoom was a necessary fact of life. Our lives had changed. None of us had ever experienced anything like it.  

  Related Posts 

Ventimiglia Market and Menton 2020 Lemon Festival

Cezanne Museum and Studio in Aix en Provence, France

Nice Carnaval 2020!

Winter Sundays and Mondays in Nice, France

Nice, France: What I’ve Learned so Far

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About

I'm in my sixties with the world at my feet and thoughts mostly of "where to next?". I retired in 2017, sold my house in Massachusetts and most of my furniture and "stuff." When not traveling you can find me in Florida in the winter and Rhode Island in the summer. Travel has been a passion from a young age, over the years I've discovered I'm a traveler, not a tourist. I prefer traveling solo, with a travel friend, or small groups. Whenever possible I would rather spend time in one place rather than moving around. I'll never turn down an opportunity to go to France, but my travels have taken me all over the world. I've met some incredible people and had some fantastic experiences.

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