After a difficult few months in lockdown, Summer brought a nice reprieve from the rigid Coronavirus restrictions in France. Borders, restaurants, and hotels opened up and allowed us the opportunity to travel. We spent most of our Summer weekends in France exploring a new city or nearby town. We were lucky enough to travel within three countries and explore almost thirty cities. However, it was also important to explore our own city of Lyon as well. Coronavirus had stripped us of getting to know Lyon in the first few months after we arrived; it is safe to say that we both love living here.
Lyon is the gastronomy capital of France, and there is no shortage of restaurants to try. We typically will try a new restaurant once a week. This ensures that we will know just the place to take our friends and family when they visit (one day)! We even found a delicious Mexican-style restaurant close to our apartment, although it does not compare to the Mexican restaurants back home. We eat at home the remaining days of the week, and I am becoming quite the cook in the kitchen! I have never enjoyed cooking before. But now, I kick Jordan out of the kitchen and tell him to go sit down relax! I even tried my hand at making a tarte au citron for dessert. This has been an unexpected win now that I have little stress and lots of time.
Daylight spanned well into the evening and would last until around ten at night. We took advantage of these extended daylight hours. Our Summer nights in France included long walks along the Saône river, bike rides along the Rhône river, and the opportunity to meet friends.
One of our Summer highlights in Lyon was having the opportunity to watch three cygnets grow up near our apartment. A small pond filled with muskrats and ducks sits across from the Saône river. When the three little cygnets were first born, they stayed in the pond with their parents. They were tiny little balls of fluff, and so fun to watch. After Jordan finished work, we would excitedly go down to the pond to see the cygnets. I would even go down by the pond to read a book just to be able to look up and see the cygnets. Until one day, they were not there.
The cygnets were still small when they left the pond. But we knew they could not have gone very far. A few days later, we spotted them floating along the Saône river. They had moved up from the “kiddie pool” to the “adult pool.” We had fun trying to spot them on our walks. Sometimes, we would even go on a short walk after dinner just to see them! There was an area that they liked to stay in the evenings, but I think it is because people would give them bread. We can even see them from our balcony swimming along the Saône river during the day.
Now the cygnets are almost full size and are shedding their gray feathers. We know that they will be gone soon, just like the long days of Summer.
Autumn has officially arrived in Lyon, and we are excited about the cooler temperatures the change in seasons will bring. We brought out Fall decor to decorate our apartment: a singular burnt orange striped dish towel and a newly purchased scented candle. The candle was primarily to mask the smell of fish cooked in the apartment below us. It still counts!
As Autumn begins, we are feeling the freedom we had this Summer slipping away. The volume of virus cases started to creep back up in France at the end of Summer. The numbers have topped at 16,000 new cases a day. This is higher than during our lockdown and means more restrictions will soon come with it. However, the French government has said that number of cases was probably much higher this Spring, but they did not have the testing capabilities they have now. Fortunately, the death rate and people in intensive care remain relatively low.
As of September 1, Lyon was once again considered a “red zone.” This means there was an active circulation of the virus in our city, along with 54 other areas in France. Lyon set up temporary testing areas in many of the metro stations. Tests were free, with the caveat that there would be long wait times. The testing areas’ locations changed every couple of days to give people the best opportunity to get a test. We never felt the need to get a test, as we have not experienced any symptoms.
As of September 23, France created new classifications. There were originally three zones: green, orange, and red. France then decided to get rid of the orange zone, leaving only green and red. That was a mistake! I don’t think they expected needing a zone worse than red. Now, there are two new classifications more intense than red. The government has created a “super red” and “scarlet” designation for the worst areas.
While Lyon has moved into the “super red”, or zone alerte renforcee zone, we are not alone. Fourteen other departments have moved into this new zone, and two moved into the “scarlet” zone. These include other major cities in France like Paris, Marseille, Nice, and Bordeaux. This new classification also means new restrictions.
For most of the Summer throughout France, masks were only required in shops and restaurants. For at least the last few weeks and the foreseeable future, they are necessary anytime we leave the apartment.
Side note: If I had to choose one silver lining for wearing a mask, it would be how much money I have saved on makeup. Obviously, Jordan does not have that problem! I am still using the same foundation I bought before moving to France seven months ago. Whereas I would typically buy a new foundation every two months. My makeup still transfers onto the white mask, even with setting powder and setting spray. It is not worth wearing. A little mascara and eyeshadow and viola! Je fini. Jordan has had to adjust to this as he used to know how long he could wait before starting to get ready. Now, I am ready to walk out the door before he even has a chance to jump in the shower!
The new restrictions for Lyon and the “super red” zones are:
- Still wear a mask anytime
- All gyms closed
- Events can only allow 1,000 people instead of 5,000
- No more than ten people can hang out in public
- Local events are canceled
- All event centers are closed
- Only two visits/week allowed to a nursing home
- Flea markets and garage sales prohibited
- Classes canceled if three students test positive for the virus
Ok, so a lot of these restrictions don’t even apply to us.
In many departments, they are also requiring bars to close early. In the “scarlet” zones, like Marseille, restaurants have to close all together. It has caused quite a stir in the news! There are a lot of people questioning how France determined what areas were the “problem.” The rules seem trivial, as many people are starting to have virus fatigue. There is also a concern that people are going to gather more indoors as the weather continues to cool. Wouldn’t congregating in restaurants be the safer option?
Lyon has confirmed all bars and restaurants would remain open, but they would enforce social distancing and wearing masks. France has also just started a new program to encourage residents to eat out at restaurants, and Lyon has 45 restaurants that are entirely half off! We can’t wait to go try them.
We respect the new restrictions and will travel responsibly in France. The government has made it clear that another lockdown is not an option, but we will keep traveling until it is no longer possible.
Unfortunately, borders are also starting to close again. We were tentatively planning a vacation in October to Italy now that we have our official residence cards. We were hoping to visit the Dolomites, see the changing fall foliage, and go on hikes. The perfect social distancing activity! However, a negative COVID test is now required within 72 hours to enter Italy from France. While we know the risk is low that we would test positive, there is still a risk. After talking it through, we do not think this is a risk that we want to take. We will likely have to find a plan B option in France!
Last weekend, Jordan’s colleague invited us to their home in the Provence region of France. France had their annual “Les Journées du Patrimoine,” a weekend where access to museums, monuments, and castles is free to visit. We explored Colorado Provençal, Arles, Avignon, and Les Baux de Provence. We stayed busy! I will share pictures of these places on our photos page next week.
We are spending our first Autumn weekend in the mountains and plan to go on a couple of hikes. There’s even a chance of snow where we are headed.
Have a great weekend! We would love to hear how you plan to spend your first weekend in the comments!