We are in the sixth week of our Coronavirus lockdown in France. Actually, today is Thursday, April 30th, Day 45 of our not so roving retirement in France. The excitement for this week is our current plan to travel to the US next week. We have been busy confirming travel reservations, eating down the groceries we already bought, and getting ready to leave our cozy and safe apartment in Perpignan. I honestly think we are safer here in France than in the US, but it is time to try to get back to see family.
We hope to return to France in the fall provided the spread of the Coronavirus is well understood or there is treatment or a vaccine.
Opening of France
All of the news discussions this week are about how France and other countries are going to start opening up again. For France, the target date is May 11th, but the opening will be phased. This is all bitter-sweet for us because we can now see proprietors in their stores, getting things ready to reopen. Whenever we go out for a walk, we talk about how much we want to see what this town is like when things are open. But that isn’t in the cards right now. We do plan to be back in France in the fall as soon as we are able.
Here are pictures of this beautiful little town, Perpignan, our home for the last six weeks.
This week on one of our walks through the old town, I noticed that a fabric and yarn store was open. At the time I pointed it out to Mike, wondering what was going on. It wasn’t until the next news installment that we learned that fabric stores were allowed to open this week so people can get the supplies needed to sew their own masks, even though surgical-type masks should be available for everyone by May 11th. Some pharmacies had lines yesterday because they finally had masks available.
As with everyplace else, people are anxious to have things open up again, especially as the weather gets nicer. Every afternoon we see kids on skates and scooters playing in the big square across from our apartment. We also saw more people than usual out for walks yesterday morning but they are maintaining social distancing and staying six feet from others.
Missing Social Contact
We have also discussed the fact that we haven’t talked to any here in person in the last six weeks except the pharmacist. We found a pharmacist who speaks English well, so communication with him is fairly easy. Under normal circumstances, we would have been talking to people in bars and restaurants and even seeking out other expats. But with the lockdown, none of the bars and restaurants are open, so we can’t even practice our French with people. It’s so disappointing.
On one of our walks this week a man in a car started to ask me a question and I figured he wanted directions, which I have given in French in the past. But he really wanted to tell me about his mobile hairdressing business and he spoke very good English. Then he volunteered that his English was good because he lived in England for a while. I thought it was pretty ironic to run into a mobile hairdresser the week that we are leaving France. If only I had found him three weeks ago.
Our Path Back to the US
Several weeks ago when it looked like things were stabilizing with the virus here in France and the numbers in California didn’t look too bad, we started to plan a visit to the US. Our major motivation to go to the US is really to support our family in the Bay Area. When we started looking for flights, there were no flights out of France until after the first of May. So we decided to target the 3rd or 4th of May for our trip.
For us, our visit to the US involves a number of things. First is the car we rented and where we can return it. Because the car rental is actually a lease (we will cover that in another article), we had very few places where the car could be returned. In France, we could return the car to Toulouse or Paris. We also had the option to return the car to Barcelona Spain, but we were very concerned with our ability to cross the border into Spain. Therefore, we took traveling from Barcelona to the US off of our list of possibilities.
Toulouse is only about a two hour drive from Perpignan, so we booked a flight from Toulouse to London and then a flight from London to LAX the following day. Then it’s a short flight from LA to San Jose. LAX was the best West Coast destination from London on British Airways, where we could use our points. No one had any flights directly from London or Paris to SFO. So we booked the flight for May 3rd from Toulouse. All good, until we got an email a few days later that the flight from Toulouse to London had been canceled. So, back to the drawing board.
Our Trip Plan
After much discussion, we decided that our best chance of leaving France was to fly out of Paris to London to LAX to San Jose. The only downside of this plan is that it is an eight-hour drive from Perpignan to Paris. After much deliberation, we decided to leave Perpignan on Saturday, May 2nd, and spend the night in Orleans (only a 6-hour drive). Then drive to the airport in Paris on Sunday, May 3rd to return the car and take a 4 pm flight to London.
Because the only flight from London to LAX leaves in the morning, we get to spend Sunday night in London. We then take our flight from London to LAX on Monday, May 4th with a connection to San Jose the same day. We hope all of these arrangements work out. If not, we can figure things out as we go, fortunately, these major airports do have a few hotels open so the chances of having to sleep in an airport are fairly low.
After all of that, we will get plenty of rest during our two weeks of self-isolation in Cupertino before we can get on with life.
Wish us luck on our journey and we will let you all know how it went in our post next week.