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July 2020

Paris is starting to feel like Paris again, with fewer tourists

After a two-month lockdown in France — one of Europe’s most strict — the infection rate of COVID-19 has been beaten back to the point where the country, and its capital, are truly open again.

Photo credit:

Chris Welsch

Though the government was slow to react at first, it organized an effective national response to the pandemic, with economic policies that have helped soften the blow. (As The New York Times noted, this success, topped only by Germany’s recovery, has not stopped the French from complaining about the government’s shortcomings, which is something of a national pastime).

The café terraces, now expanded onto the streets in front of them, are bustling with coffee and gossip in the mornings and rosé and flirtation in the late afternoon. Restaurants are busy, even inside, and nearly all of the city’s museums and monuments are open again.

The only thing missing is the tourists, and they are starting to arrive. Earlier in July, France began again welcoming travelers from other parts of Europe as well as several other countries in Asia and the Americas (though not the United States for now). Tourists will discover that some things have changed. The recently re-elected mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, took advantage of the lockdown to rapidly expand the city’s network of bike lanes and routes. Now, for example, the Rue de Rivoli — a transit artery that runs in front of the Louvre — is completely given over to bikes, taxis and buses.

For those who do use the Métro, commuter trains (RER), or regular trains, masks are mandatory, in the stations and on the trains, and violations are subject to a 135 euro fine. Starting August 1st, the government has made it mandatory to wear masks in all public spaces to prevent the risk of a second contamination wave and new lockdown phase. Many museums, including the Louvre, now require the reservation of a time slot to prevent overcrowding and long lines.

Secret Journeys is also ready to reopen, and has just announced that it will be resuming operations in September, with three of its most popular and intriguing offerings scheduled weekly. “We’ve been awaiting the moment when we could once again welcome guests in the best French tradition,” says Philippe Hertzberg, founder of Secret Journeys. “We have been working with our partners to create experiences that are worry-free, authentic, and unforgettable”.

The journeys that will be relaunched are a private experience at the magnificent Paris Opera House, the Palais Garnier, a privileged encounter at the Royal stables of the Palace of Versailles with an unforgettable spectacle of choreographed horsemanship, and the opportunity to visit the “outlaw” vineyard of storied Montmartre, which of course includes a tasting.

In each case, small groups will be led by expert storytellers to explore places that are normally off-limits or inaccessible. Encounters with the Parisians who work or perform in these places set Secret Journeys apart. All health and safety standards are scrupulously maintained and implemented throughout each experience.

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