Paris Lockdown Diary, Day 14 (I Think)

Bonjour! I hope you are well and safe, finding a way to navigate your shelter-in-place orders. Here in Paris, we’re on Day 14 (or is it 13? of lockdown. Our lockdown has been extended to at least April 15th. My family and I are healthy and doing well.

Paris is silent and still. A few joggers are out on the streets, a few solo shoppers with groceries. Ambulances race down the wide boulevards, sirens off. There is no need for sirens when the streets are empty. At 8 pm we go on our balconies to applaud. Against the tasteful monotony of the Haussmann facades, I spotted a colorful sign of thanks — “Merci aux soignants” — “thanks to the caregivers.”

We’re allowed to leave our apartment once a day for up to an hour to do grocery shopping or exercise. We can go up to a kilometer from our home. Our leash happens to end right at Arc de Triomphe. Anyone who has visited Paris may be able to imagine how strange it is to see L’Etoile and Champs Elysees abandoned and nearly silent.

Two days ago, on my morning run, a movement in an upper window caught my eye. It was a hand, moving the curtains aside. The movement drew my eyes to the sky above the building, where the clouds were moving swiftly past. In the strange silence, absent the usual hum of tires on the cobblestone street, the clanging of the flagpole on the adjacent building had a lovely ring.

In the video, just above that flag, you’ll see the apartment where Marcel Proust lived with his family for many years. We had been here for nearly a year before I realized I was living across the street from Proust’s former home. It bears mentioning that Proust wrote nothing in that apartment, and only began In Search of Lost Time after he had moved to a different flat, one where he was besieged by terrible neighbors doing constant construction. We too have terrible upstairs neighbors with a penchant for rowdy construction and even rowdier parties, and four young children who never take off their shoes. Fortunately, the neighbors left for their country house the day before lockdown, leaving us in a state of unexpected peace.

Our hometown in Northern California has been sheltering in place as long as France has. For those who are in areas where shelter-in-place orders were issued later, I offer a note of encouragement: two weeks in, it is getting easier to be homebound. One acclimates. One settles into new routines. Despite the restlessness, there is a sense of peace that comes with knowing your community is doing the right thing, and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

It’s also strangely relaxing. In 20 years of marriage, my husband has never spent this many consecutive weekdays at home. It is a gift and a revelation. I always assumed 24/7 cohabitation would be detrimental to marital accord, but as it turns out, one quickly figures out the new domestic choreography. (It helps if your husband has always been the better partner when it comes to dishes).

Even our teenaged son has settled in with little complaint. For the first time in years, thanks to a shortened school day and less homework, he’s getting adequate sleep, which may be why he’s in such a good mood. (For the record, I think kids have every right to complain right now; they’re the first adolescents in 102 years to live through a pandemic, so we should all cut them some slack.)

France reported more than 400 deaths yesterday, and the hottest spot of the outbreak in the country is now Paris. Sadly, we know that deaths will continue to rise in coming days, but hopefully the rate of new infections will begin to slow. We are encouraged by the news that San Francisco is flattening the curve, but we worry about friends and family back home, especially in California and New York.

Yet I am optimistic, because I can imagine a future in which we’re looking BACK at this virus, reflecting on the way it changed our lives, instead of looking nervously ahead.

Be safe and well. Much love from Paris.




New York Times bestselling author of THE MARRIAGE PACT — I help writers complete their first novels at Books at

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Recommended from Medium

Issue 12: Tour of Friendship

All About Malas

Using Instagram polls to travel

Reporting Trip: 3 Ravens Tattoo & Piercing

Seoul’s Dongmyo flea market: Lessons from my vintage clothing hunt

The Sound of The Underground


Follow the lines going south

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Michelle Richmond

Michelle Richmond

New York Times bestselling author of THE MARRIAGE PACT — I help writers complete their first novels at Books at

More from Medium

Published Works of Friends, Colleagues, and Students

Don’t try to avoid others’ mistakes to succeed in your business, embrace making your own

Pure Artist Music LLC