You may know our friend Jessica Quilling of Scotch and the Fox. She’s a voice we love to hear from and we’re honored when she is sharing her stories. From lifestyle content to travels and more, Jess does all the things! In this guest blog, she shares about her magical 2021 trip to Paris, France. If you’re thinking about international travel and particularly a trip to Paris, we hope this blog will inform and inspire you in the new year and beyond. See you in Luxembourg Garden!
Paris in the Pandemic
I’ve been lucky enough to travel to Paris, France, twice. It’s a little tricky to reconcile the Paris of 2021 with the Paris I met in 2019. In many ways, she’s the same — rooted in romance and indulgence — and of course in some, she’s different.
Traveling during a pandemic is… odd. While I followed all the recommended precautions and am personally vaccinated, it takes a minute to adjust to the new standards in the midst of any travel adventure. Preparing for France was different this time around, and not just because I didn’t use a travel agent. Of course, I fretted over my clothes and absolutely made the final zip of my suitcase a mere few hours before I left for the airport — but this time, I had a bit more work to do.
France was only welcoming travelers under specific circumstances: diplomats, students, and visitors (given they were vaccinated), among a few other exceptions. And while the details may have changed since I visited, the result was the same: Paris was open for business.
So, how did it go? In short? It was amazing.
Before I left, I researched the documentation I would need to enter the country, and any info that would be helpful. I printed the appropriate forms, downloaded some apps, and ordered extra masks according to the relatively loose guidance I could find. Since then, the website I referenced, The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has made the process much more user- friendly with a handy article on the homepage called, “Coming to France? Your Covid-19 questions answered.”
France has a unified policy regarding masks and vaccinations so there’s a lot less confusion about wearing (or not wearing) a mask in public spaces. My trip was in October of 2021; a time where rules were relaxing in some places, but tightening in others across the U.S., so the consistency was frankly refreshing.
Vaccinations or negative COVID-19 tests were required for entrance to most places like museums and restaurants. And while a vaccination card may suffice, the preferred method for providing your status is through a French app called “Tous Anti-Covid.” Don’t worry, it’s in English, but it allows you to submit your vaccination records and negative tests to a team so you can receive your personal QR code. The QR code will often be the first thing that you get asked for when you sit down at a restaurant, but it’s just a quick scan and you’re back to scanning the menu for wine and steak frites!
A city like Paris is notorious for being crowded with locals and visitors alike. While the city was certainly alive again, the volume varied depending on the situation. The metro? Full with masked commuters. The Louvre? Significantly less crowded. Galeries Lafayette? Busy, busy. Restaurants? Hit or miss depending on where and when (so probably no real change there). I’ve only visited once before, and it was also in October, so while it wasn’t the height of tourist-season (summer), the volume of people out and about seemed just a pinch lower than what I would’ve expected with such beautiful weather.
Out and About
Paris is an incredibly easy place to spend your time outdoors. Aside from the beautiful architecture, monuments, and lovely public spaces, their café culture makes it easy to spend an entire day exploring without any significant amount of time inside a building.
Many know Paris to be walkable, but it’s also incredibly bike-friendly, too. I made a few trips on a rented scooter (the standing kind, not the sitting, Vespa kind), and with the bike paths in-place, I was able to traverse the city quickly without needing to use the metro or take a cab. This is purely for my own sense of adventure, but I’d highly recommend it to anyone looking for a fun and fast way to zip around town.
During my stay, COVID-19 tests were required for my group trip and return travel to the states. While at-home tests aren’t uncommon in the U.S., the prevalence of corner pharmacies offering rapid tests in Paris simply can’t be matched. If you’ve never been to France, their pharmacies are marked with a green cross, and sometimes even a neon marquee. This distinct signage combined with a pop-up tent or large sign highlighting the available tests, made access to testing incredibly easy to find and use.
I was a little worried that Paris would feel a little sad with the added anxiety of COVID-19 hovering in the back of my mind, but after all this time rocking a mask in every coat pocket, or around my wrist, it was second-nature and didn’t impact my experience in any significant way. The people I met, and places I went were just as charming as I’d remembered. I might chock that up to nostalgia, but I discovered so many new neighborhoods, restaurants, and stores that I can credit myself with only a little bit of bias.
To go, or not to go?
A Parisian pandemic experience sounds like it might fall short of expectation, but depending on how you plan your activities and manage your expectations, you can avoid a COVID-related variant of Paris Syndrome. And truthfully, when it comes to travel, the fact remains that with thoughtful preparation Paris can still satisfy your French-inspired adventures — even during a pandemic.