“Gone the museums, gone the tourist-filled riverboats plying the Seine, gone the sidewalk terraces offering their pleasures at dusk, gone the movie theaters, gone the casual delights of wandering and the raucous banter of the most northern of southern cities. In their place, a gray sadness has settled over the city like fog.
“I have seen sunlight three or four times since arriving from New York about seven weeks ago. A glimmer, a summons to life, gone soon enough to leave doubts as to whether it was real. New York does not do drizzle or weeks of uninterrupted gray skies.
“So my adaptation has been harsh, particularly to a Paris with its soul torn out. ‘It’s of an absolute sadness,’ Alain Ducasse, the celebrated chef, said, when I asked how Paris felt these days. ‘It’s a terrible imprisonment. The French are not accustomed to life without its social side, a drink at a cafe, a touch, a kiss.’
“Yes, even the ‘bisou,’ the little kiss on both cheeks that is a rite of greeting or farewell, is gone.
“With more than 74,000 people dead across France from the pandemic, everyone understands the restrictions imposed. Almost all major cities across the world have had to endure lost lives, lost jobs, lost ways of life. Paris is far from alone in its deprivations.
“But each city changes in its own way. In New York the absence that feels most acute is of the energy that defines it. In Paris, the hole in its heart is the absence of the sensual conviviality that makes people dream. It is the disappearance of pleasures the French have spent centuries refining in the belief there is no limit to them.” — from “Paris, Shuttered, Must Be Imagined,” a 1.30.21 N.Y. Times piece by Roger Cohen.