It happened. After months of President Macron repeating that France will avoid a lockdown at all costs, we are back to this point. The second lockdown begins today.
On Wednesday night, we tuned in with the rest of France to learn our fate. Macron was planning to speak to the nation on the current COVID crisis. While on vacation in Switzerland, we pulled up the news as we waited for our train at the station.
The first few minutes of his speech provided no new information but reiterated how difficult it was in France. New cases topped almost 50,000 per day. The hardest hit region in the country is Lyon, where we live. The message was grim. I repeated this information to Jordan, but he was not interested in listening. He said he wanted to see everything at once, not piece mailed as it was coming through. But I couldn’t wait. I continued to listen in and hoped that Jordan would change his mind to discuss everything I was reading.
Up until two days ago, a lockdown in France was never even rumored about. Lyon and many areas of France already have a 9:00 pm curfew. Experts suggested that the curfew should start at 7:00 pm. News articles reported about potential weekend confinements or implementing localized confinements. We did not expect a full lockdown for the entire country. But here we are.
Macron says confinement will look different this time. But at face value, it does not change for us.
“Like last spring, you will be able to leave your home only for work, for a doctor’s visit, to help a relative, do essential shopping or go out shortly for air.”President Macron
The second lockdown will last four weeks to December 1. We have heard this story before. Last time, our two-week lockdown turned into eight weeks. The current cases in France are as high as 50,000 daily. Our new lockdown will be lifted when we can maintain 5,000 cases daily. That’s a lofty goal for the next four weeks. Especially when France did not see the peak of the first wave until halfway through the first lockdown. That peak looks like a tiny blip compared to the cases now.
We returned from Switzerland yesterday afternoon and started to prepare for lockdown. The first thing we did was to go to IKEA to purchase a desk. We were there along with everyone else in Lyon. Overnight, the desk we had picked out online had sold out in the store. We had to quickly choose another one in the warehouse as the stock became more limited by the minute. Jordan had to leave while I was waiting in line to join a work conference call. It was a call in English to discuss how his work location will handle the new lockdown. Remember, Jordan didn’t work during the last lockdown. Instead, he was paid 80% of his salary by the French government.
While waiting in line at IKEA, I had a moment to myself to process our situation. As I looked around, I noticed all of the Christmas decorations on display in the store. Christmas music was playing over the speaker. In Macron’s speech, he hoped that the virus will subside enough for people to enjoy Christmas and New Year’s Eve with family. I became overwhelmed with emotions but had to hold it together in the store.
Christmas is a time for celebration and to spend time with family. It was at this moment that I realized this was no longer a reality for us this year. We have held out hope for so long that we could fly home for Christmas to see our families and dogs. Having hope allowed all the difficulties of living abroad to be okay in the middle of a pandemic. And while it’s still okay, it’s just going to be a little more complicated than we expected with the start of the second lockdown in France. I waited until I met up with Jordan at the car to cry.
Thankfully, Jordan’s office is going to stay open, and he will work remotely throughout November. He is working from the office today and will bring home his chair, monitors, and a headset. Jordan will have to go back to making lunch for himself instead of dining at their canteen. I think that is what he is most upset about! The canteen at his office makes fresh French lunches daily at a low cost. When he comes home from work, I ask him what he ate for lunch that day. He lights up as he describes the sauce they had or the type of potatoes used. Jordan is going from fancy options to cold-cut sandwiches for lunch; a definite downgrade.
Our next stop was the grocery store to stock up on supplies. We had not planned on staying in town this weekend, so our fridge and pantry were empty. The grocery store was busy, but not more so than usual. There was no mad dash for toilet paper, and the aisle was still fully stocked. We stocked up on our essentials for the next few days and got out of there. On our walk back to our apartment from the grocery store, tons of people were still outside. Many were congregating by the water and having fun. Even more did not have their masks on, which is probably what got us into this situation, to begin with.
Jordan and I are both disappointed that France is back to this point. We have lived in France for eight months, and this is the second lockdown. But we can’t be all doom and gloom. Over the past three months, we have taken advantage of every weekend possible. We spent two wonderful weeks in Norway and traveled all throughout France. For the past week, Jordan and I traveled through Switzerland as we took a last-minute trip. He had to use a week of vacation by the end of November. We had no itinerary, and a one-way train booked. We would figure out the details after we arrived. And we got lucky with the timing! Or else Jordan would be taking his vacation time while stuck inside our apartment during re-confinement.
There is so much to be thankful for.
The fact that we even have the opportunity to live in France is fantastic. We are thankful that we are not alone in this journey and that we have each other to lean on. For the opportunity to FaceTime our families even when we cannot see them in person. For our amazing apartment with two balconies with views of the Saone river (that we will definitely be taking advantage of over the next month). That we have our own furniture, kitchen items, and all of our clothes this lockdown, not just what we brought over with us in our suitcase while living in an Airbnb!
We are resilient and will get through this, just like we got through the first lockdown.
So, what does the lockdown look like for us?
- We will be able to leave our home only for work, a doctor’s visit, help a relative, do essential shopping, or go out shortly for air. So, only shopping and going out for air apply to us.
- The dreaded attestation letters back. Yep, the permission slips we have to complete every time we want to leave our apartment. There’s actually not one but three letters that someone may have to carry with them at any given time.
- Outdoor time is limited to only one hour a day within 1km of our home. We live on a peninsula, so much of our radius is water!
- Travel anywhere is impossible.
What’s different about the lockdown in France this time? President Macron is trying to keep as much open as possible during this lockdown. Last time, only grocery stores, bakeries, and pharmacies stayed open. This time, many stores and businesses are staying open. For your enjoyment, the full lists are below.
The majority of the changes from the first lockdown don’t impact us. The biggest thing is that they are keeping the parks and access to the river open, which will be great for our one-hour walks.
In real irony, October has been a very cloudy and rainy month. On the first day of lockdown, there is not a cloud in the sky. The sky is a crisp blue color, and it is the sunniest day we have had all month!
We plan to spend lockdown actually watching college football, trying new dutch oven recipes, and enjoying local wine on our balcony. Jordan may even get through editing his photos from the past eight months so I can share them here! Travel is on hold indefinitely, but we will make the most of the time we have.