SIt was so easy for the elders to bypass the Arc de Triomphe. The twelve star roads that meet there are as free as the large roundabout. No car that cuts the way from the left or right. It runs smoothly. Without street noise and in bright light, the arch monument comes into its own. The monument to the republic designed by Napoléon Bonaparte is supposed to have a completely different appearance this September: the artist Christo is allowed to wrap the triumphal arch for two weeks. But that was decided before the coronavirus crisis. Who knows today what will be possible in Paris in September?
The French capital was swept as empty this Wednesday afternoon as it was only on a very early summer morning. Blue sky, clear air, but hardly a human soul looks as far as you can see. At the foot of the triumphal arch, a woman and three men in uniform are chatting. Otherwise the representatives of the “Committee of the Flame” are waiting every evening 100 meters away on the Champs-Elysées on the corner of Rue de Tilsitt for the start of their approach to the Arc de Triomphe, where they will hold a ceremony to commemorate those who died in the war and thus to the nation hold.
“It has been happening every single day since 1923 – just as naturally today,” emphasizes one of the men. Only there is no school class or other group of younger generations on this day – the curfew does not allow this. The virus also upsets France’s almost 100-year-old memory tradition. There is a yawning emptiness on the Champs-Elysées, which many French people like to call the most beautiful avenue in the world. Not even the shop windows are decorated in the sales stamps of the luxury brands.
Only in Rue de la Boétie, which branches off to the side, is a supermarket open, because food must remain available. A pharmacy across the street is still receiving customers. There is no trace of tourists; only a Japanese couple is walking the street with walking sticks. The plateau of the Trocadero with its monumental view of the Eiffel Tower is dead. A lonely couple sneaks along with their dog and is immediately checked by the police.
A lonely empty taxi follows him
France has tightened the curfew this week, and open air weekly markets are now also prohibited unless the mayor grants an exemption. Without well-defined valid and verifiable reasons, you are only allowed one hour outdoors each day, but only on your own (except with family members) and no further than one kilometer from where you live.
Law enforcement officers stop cars on Avenue du Président Wilson. They ask about the reason for the outside activity, check whether the passenger’s license has been properly filled out at home and want to see the ID. Journalists have special permits. “Everything’s fine, have a nice day,” says the official. So the foray can continue. Not ten people scatter on the Place de la Concorde, which is the largest square in Paris with its 86,000 square meters.
If you want to go to the Tuileries Park next door, have a look through the iron gates with their gilded tips. The bouquinists on the banks of the Seine closed their green stalls. In the windows of the galleries across from the Louvre are handwritten notes with the cell phone numbers of the owners; contact with interested parties should not break off. A public bus drives past, it carries exactly one passenger. A lonely empty taxi follows him.
The chairs are put on the tables in otherwise high-traffic restaurants such as the “Procope” in the sixth arrondissement, where intellectuals and artists came together before the revolution. Not far from there, on Rue de Seine, the building of the “Hotel Prince de Condé”, where the musketeer D’Artagnan once lived, has closed. Only at a small corner shop across the street is the light on.