I am scheduled to begin my visit to my favorite city on lucky September 13. Hint: the home of Victor Hugo; seller of baguettes and cheese to die for; a place that has elevated people-watching to a fine art.
After an absence of – can it really be 20 years- I’m returning to Paris for the fifth time for five glorious days before embarking on an adventure I’d sworn never to take – a cruise. More on that in a minute.
My last visit to Paris was a bat mitzah gift to my daughter and yeah, also a gift to moi. As we schlepped nonstop all over the city as if the Eiffel Tower and Versailles would disappear the next day, I asked repeatedly if she wanted a break. She responded no, she was fine with our, shall I say, “peppy” pace. Months later, I asked again if we’d been a bit too much on the go and she now replied “yeah, kind of.” Our next trip, to Barcelona, was way more chill.
As will be this one because – the joke’s on me – I have no choice. Parkinson’s slows my gait and saps my energy. Old days itinerary: museum followed by walk followed by another museum followed by shopping. No more of that for you, Missy! Pick two! Or maybe even just one.
Parkinson’s also explains the cruise. Hiking vacations may now be supplanted by – Sing it, Tina – Rolling Down the River. (See my post “Adults Only” to obtain the full measure of the disdain I “harbored” for the aquatic form of travel.
But having Parkinson’s has forced me into all sorts of compromises. As has Covid.
Do you go to the movies or do you continue to scroll through Netflix and Prime, ending with the ritual “tossing of the remote,” as you scream “I’ve seen everything already. I NEED TO GO OUT!!!!
Your friend invites you to an actual dinner party with actual interesting strangers. You’re dying to go but your spouse isn’t having it. “But I’ll wear a mask between bites!”you scream. (There’s a lot of screaming around these issues,)
Or… your spouse is begging you on bended knee to allow him to visit friends. CAREFUL friends. Not in a CROWDED SUBWAY but in their OWN HOMES. “It’s an unnecessary risk,” you scream. “My friend Bonnie caught it at a dinner party and she was double- boosted.”
I know some very smart people who wouldn’t dream of going on a trip like this. First of all, there’s the airport to navigate, followed by a long transcontinental flight, then another airport. Note: I intend to be as masked as The Lone Ranger from the moment I enter the Delta Terminal at Logan Airport till I arrive at my hotel in Paris. That trip also includes a segment on the Paris Metro, probably the most fraught thing I’ll do during my entire stay.
I’m buffeted on both sides with advice, including from people I’ve only met on a “Paris Tips” Facebook page, an admittedly skewed group. They’re all GO! GO! And GO!!!!!
One friend was a bit concerned but thought I’d be okay as long as I was careful. Turns out that our definitions of careful were not the same and she was surprised that I had every intention of dining indoors (in one case at a communal table), something I’ve done for months and she hasn’t done for years.
I justify my decision to take this trip, cruise ship and all (river boat with 120 passengers as opposed to city-sized vessel accommodating 5,000) by assuring my friends that I will be as vigilant as I am at home. Which frankly isn’t very. I often forgo the mask in the supermarket. I eat indoors at restaurants. But if I’m in a crowded space- for example, on the bus to the terminal at the airport -I’ll mask up. I may also be influenced by the fact that I’ve had Covid, barely. A couple of coughs and sneezes – so mild that I wouldn’t have noticed them in ordinary times – and I was done.
I suddenly understood my friends’ perspectives about my coming Parisian sojourn. I believe they’ve been assuming my safety procedures would match theirs – more masking, only dining al fresco in restaurants – were I to remain stateside. But in truth, I’m much less vigilant than they.
I recognize that I’ve become a bit of a risk-taker, at least where Covid is concerned. I’m persuaded by those who argue “Covid is likely to be with us for a while, just like the flu. Why not treat it the same way and get on with your life?”
Getting on with life resonates loudly with me, certainly in part due to the fact that I now have a chronic illness. Canceling the trip but continuing with my current level of precaution, I suspect I would be as likely to contract Covid at home as in Paris, where I’ve decided to wear a mask pretty much everywhere.
I’m that friend you dared to jump off the roof in sixth grade, who accepted the challenge. I’m no statistician but I surely take a greater risk here at home than my more cautious and arguably smarter friends when I enjoy a savory morsel of salmon with harissa in a venue that possesses a commercial kitchen.
So…..I’m off to Paris in two weeks with not exactly a devil-may-care attitude but a healthy serving of cautious optimism that I won’t get sick.
I don’t believe there’s a right or wrong answer here. The right thing to do is what’s right for you. To those of you who choose to stay home I say “Enjoy your good health. You’ve earned it.” And to my gambling partners in crime I call “Bon appetit” and “Bon voyage.”
He’s been called “the funniest man in America” by …me. And technically that’s not true since he lives abroad.
But if you haven’t read David Sedaris, get thee to a bookstore or a library pronto.
I defy you not to laugh at Santaland Diaries.
Start with early Sedaris –Naked, Me Talk Pretty One Day, and work your way forward. Or not.