Les Bestioles


The “déconfinement” continues. Restaurants and cafes will open June 2nd. The retailer streets are choked with shoppers. Parks are filling up with walkers and picnickers.

My mind is on something else. The other day, inside the apartment, I spotted the first mosquito of the season. A few hours later, a small welt on the inside of my right ankle started to itch madly. The next day, my fingernails were digging at a much larger welt between my neck and left shoulder. Up and down, up and down, scratch, scratch.

Mosquitoes love me. If I am in a crowd, everyone else is safe from bites as I’ll attract them all. I detest the critters, and, for that matter, all bugs.

But the “moustiques” pose more than just a nuisance here on the French Riviera. We are one of the many regions in France on red alert for tiger mosquitoes. They are responsible for the small but growing number of cases in France of dengue fever and chikungunya, two deadly tropical diseases.

The heating planet is to blame, so this situation is unlikely to improve. In fact, by 2030, all of France is expected to be plagued by the large, striped insect. By then, the tiger mosquito won’t be the only warmer earth problem, but for now I am on vigilant guard against them.

There are other insects to ward off during this season, of course. Flies, ants, hornets, strange little things with wings that I can’t name. In some buildings, cockroaches. Let’s not talk about vermin.

Outside of the hot months of May through October, our tall French windows open to a lovely view over a garden. In early spring, they are open all day for the breeze and bird song. Starting now, the watered rose bushes, palm trees and linden plants become dangerous breeding grounds.

From now until the first drop in temperatures, long after the stunning heat waves of summer, those windows will remain shut. Soon, the air conditioning will be on — indispensable during a Nice summer. Sadly, we will probably not be going to mosquito-free Brittany this year due to coronavirus reasons (who wants to take a plane anywhere?) but we might take a road trip to the French Alps and escape all that for a short while.

That all depends. So far, we have been told we are free to travel within France for July and August. But anything could happen, couldn’t it?



Posted in climate, expat, expat life, France, Nice, France, Tiger mosquitoes | 15 Comments

Le déconfinement

window at home

window, at home

The sea was shining brilliantly early this morning when I ventured down for a look. Under normal circumstances, there would be swimmers in the water, but, in this seventh week of confinement, the sea remained unperturbed. I crossed the street to the beach side, avoiding the forbidden area of the Promenade itself, and drank in the glorious unbroken sight. By the official arrival of summer, the joggers, walkers and circus acts certainly will be back. Already, a few brazen scofflaws were biking or walking, far out of sight of the police.

It’s summery hot outside. Oh yes, it will be punishingly hotter before long, but shorts, sandals and sunblock, for whatever part of your skin is not covered by a mask, are de rigeur already. Thoughts turn to summer travel, but the Interior Minister has advised everyone not to make reservations, at least not outside France.

From May 11 to June 2, the first déconfinement period begins, following the downward slide in new coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and fatalities. We will be allowed to travel 100 kilometers without the “attestation de déplacement” which means long walks will again be possible. Since our department of the Alpes-Maritime has just been designated a green zone, the safest of the three colored categories, the parks should re-open too. Soon, we’ll be walking regularly to our local favorite, the Estienne  d’Orves hilltop park filled with ancient olive trees and populated with wild boar.

School will resume, on a parental volunteer basis. We’ll see how successful that turns out to be. The two mothers with small children who I have spoken with have told me they will not risk their children returning for the rest of the school year. Elsewhere in France, mayors are asking for a delay.

Retail stores, hair salons, dry cleaners, small museums but not restaurants, cafes or cinemas, will open under restrictions guiding their operations. The government has published 48 different guides, covering as many professions, outlining their particular safety protocols for staff and visitors. I assume that will mean just a few people entering at a time, personnel wearing masks, plexiglass barriers at the checkout, hand cleansing gel dispensers, as is the case at grocery stores at present. The open-air markets will resume too, a welcome sign of life renewed.

The Promenade, for now, will remain off-limits.

Masks are appearing in pharmacies and grocery stores and selling out. We have a small stash, to save until the next lockdown. I’d say about half the people outside are wearing them, sometimes pulled down over their chins to expose their vulnerable mouths and noses. That makes it easier to smoke, though.

The government has extended the health state of emergency through July 24, meaning if there is a Covid-19 uptick after déconfinement a quarantine can be slapped back on quickly. Because it seems everyone believes there will be another one.

window, at home

window, at home


Posted in confinement, Coronavirus, COVID-19, déconfinement, expat, expat life, France, Nice, France, quarantine | 10 Comments

Point de Situation (update)


Still life, days of confinement, Covid-19

Days of confinement, Covid-19, 2020

Today’s menu item was chicken stroganoff. It’s never been a favorite, and I associate it with cheap meals cooked up in university housing, but I had leftover sour cream from my previous, more typical household menu item, a Persian reshteh, or bean stew.

I have been doing more cooking than usual during this lockdown, and apparently I am not alone. Social media is full of people sharing their quarantine meals, including some very creative dishes rustled up with pantry basics. I plan mine depending on my appetite and mood, seeing as how grocery stores are open and I can get most of what I want in my local marché. Happily, Russian, Armenian and Persian grocery stores are also a short distance away, within the one kilometer radius of home that I am allowed to wander once a day.

Baking is way up. Flour is actually difficult to find. I needed two tablespoons today, and was lucky to find one of two small sacks of it on a shelf. The rest of my supply will be donated to our friend Christopher, who generously has been sharing his moist little banana cakes with us.

Outside of the welcome diversion cooking provides, I am pretty busy and haven’t felt cooped up. My morning one-hour walk in the sun is a “can’t miss” and gives me a  lift for the rest of the day. Under the one-kilometer radius rule, I can walk to the sea, scan the coast to soak up the view, before winding my way back home with intermittent stops for groceries as needed. Sometimes I arrange with a friend to meet on a corner for a non-virtual sighting, and we wave to each other.

I do stretching exercises or Qi Gong, I shoot still lifes in a tiny corner of the apartment, I hold virtual coffee and aperitif get-togethers. Opera, theater, ballet, concerts, documentaries, vintage French films are all available for free on the Internet during this period, and I’ve enjoyed my share. Often there’s a mid-afternoon nap. Evenings are for streaming. In-between, I am reading that old chestnut, Albert Camus’ “La Peste,” or, “The Plague.”

We always wear home-made masks and cotton gloves when we go out. The former are trashed and the latter are washed upon re-entry.  Now the French government is mailing fabric for masks to every household within the next ten days, after which wearing one will be obligatory. Finally. Pharmacies are free to renew old prescriptions, to keep people away from doctors’ offices. Telemedicine has arrived in force.

Meanwhile, restrictions tighten due to the flagrant flouting of existing ones by the assholes among us. Permission to take our daily exercise is now confined to 8-12noon and 6-8pm. More areas of the city are closed off to walkers. Airbnb is forbidden to operate during this period. Police at freeway entrances to the city stop people attempting to move into their second homes now that the warm weather has arrived.

The lockdown has been extended, to which date I am not even sure anymore. Is it April 15, with a likely extension again to April 30? Whenever. I don’t expect we’ll be free to roam until sometime in June. Regardless, there is no doubt in my mind that the lockdown is indispensable to this moment.

Officially, more than 10,000 people in France have died from Covid-19 and there have been more than 100,000 cases. The infection rate has not peaked yet, but is expected to in the next two weeks. One doctor has committed suicide (two medical personnel have in Italy, one in Germany).

France is officially in economic recession. What comes next could make this early period of confinement look like a party.

Ah, yes, the warm weather I referred to earlier. David broke out his shorts today and I’m wearing sandals inside. It’s a wonderful time to be alive.


Posted in Coronavirus, COVID-19, expat, expat life, France, Nice, France | 11 Comments

Le Couvre-feu


Nice, France, COVID-19 season

back street, Nice, France, COVID-19 season

Day Four of the strict confinement against the spread of COVID-19 saw restrictions tightened again.

Because some people somewhere on this coast did not respect the social distancing guidelines, all beaches were closed yesterday. On my walk this morning on an emptied-out Promenade des Anglais, the quintessential Nice boulevard normally crowded with locals and tourists, two police charged past me to rebuke and possibly fine a woman strolling on the beach with her dog. There were no other people in sight up and down the coastline, except a local TV cameraman and reporter. Nevertheless, a half hour later when I arrived home and checked city updates, I saw that the Promenade des Anglais had also been closed.

Promenade des Anglais, Nice, France

Scene, COVID-19 season, Nice, France

Vehicle traffic, while slight, is slow because the police stop every car for proof the drivers have a valid reason to be crossing town.

Drones support police in monitoring the situation. (For once, I’m in favor of the odious machines.)

The “attestation” document we are required to carry each time we leave our homes, not to circulate beyond a 2 kilometer radius, has to be a fresh copy every day. No crossing out yesterday’s date for today’s to save paper or printer ink. You can no longer show an image of the document on your phone.

Fines for not having the attestation or non-compliance in any other way have been raised, from 35 euros to 135.

Nice doesn’t have a “ghost town” look, because the weather is enticingly gorgeous at present and people are free to grocery shop and attend to banking and other essential matters. There’s no doubt the pace has slowed way down, streets have gotten quieter and the city’s sunny nature become more grave.

empty highway, Nice, France

Nice’s busiest highway, COVID-19 season

A nearby town of Vallauris now has a “couvre-feu,”or curfew. Ok, it starts at 10pm so I don’t know what that’s about. Our mayor is considering one for 9:30pm, starting this weekend.

And why shouldn’t he, and why not even make it earlier? The epicenter of the disease is now Europe, and deaths in France are approaching 500, with cases doubling every four days. Deaths in Italy have reached 4,000, surpassing the total fatality count in vastly larger China. It’s frightening to consider the stress French hospitals will soon experience.

In other news, Prince Albert of Monaco has tested positive. The annual Cannes Film Festival has been postponed from early to mid-May to late June (which might be wishful thinking). All city parks are closed, and in fact, all of France’s national parks are as well. US Secretary of State Pompeo told Americans overseas to return to the US, and expats in Europe where there is universal health care all said “Hell, no.”

And, from Marseille, a possible treatment is gaining interest.

We are doing okay with the confinement, so far. Sure, there’s lots to read and watch, new recipes to work on, naps to indulge in, but we do miss real social contact. Today while out, I texted a friend to come to her window so that we could see each other. I had a virtual coffee over Skype with two friends, almost like in the old days but just not quite. We’ve been FaceTiming or WhatsApp video-ing almost daily with friends and family near and far.

No complaints, however. We feel good. We have everything we need. It could be a lot worse.






Posted in Coronavirus, COVID-19, expat, expat life, France, health care, Nice, France | 4 Comments

Le Mise au Jour: the update

The “confinement strict” is for two weeks.  It can be extended, of course.

It goes into effect at noon today. These are some of the rules and provisions:

You must not go outside unless it is for food, medication or medical reasons.
Resident VISA (Titre de Sejour) are all extended for 3 months.
You may only call a doctor, you may not visit this doctor unless they say you can.
This is for at least 15 days and may be renewed by the French government.
All borders have been closed and non essential travel stopped. There will be checks and fines issued for breaking these restrictions.
The government has told landlords not to charge rent.
You can go out to walk your dog.
EU borders are closed to non-EU citizens.
A military hospital in Alsace is being made available for critical cases. (That’s kind of far from everywhere.)
100,000 police and gendarmes are being deployed to enforce the terms of the confinement.
It is unclear if we can go out, individually, to take a walk. That will probably become clear in a few days.
Day one of my confinement schedule has gone well.  My daily shop is done. The Met Opera’s “Carmen” is streaming (on pause at the moment, of course). Exercises were invigorating. Two video chats with friends are on the docket for later today.
cafe in the time of coronavirus, Nice, France

A shuttered café in Nice, France.

Posted in Coronavirus, COVID-19, expat, expat life, France, Nice, France | 5 Comments