The pandemic has changed everything in the French capital. The famous cabaret Moulin Rouge is closed and no one is allowed to enter the Louvre Museum without a mask
Paris is probably the most loved city in the world.
Every person in this world desires to be here at least once in their lifetime, to stand in front of the Eiffel Tower, to be at the Notre Dame, to wander in front of the Mona Lisa, or just walk by the Seine River.
At the same time, this city is called the most romantic destination on earth.
People dream to be in Paris with their beloved ones, watch shows in Moulin Rouge, see the sunset from Sacré-Cœur, have aromatic coffee at a roadside café and do countless other things that only Paris offers.
There is nothing new that one can write about Paris.
For centuries, writers, poets, and painters have been detailing everything about it.
But how is it doing during the pandemic?
I arrived in Paris from Dhaka on August 17.
The long flight was tough and due to the coronavirus situation, we were not offered any tea or coffee but rather some cold meals.
However, everything went safely and one warm evening, I arrived at the Charles de Gaulle airport.
My Parisian friends Ripon and Shagor came to pick me up from the airport and after dropping off my luggage, we took a night stroll around Paris.
The first time I visited Paris was in the spring of 2004.
Since then I have been here many times and the best thing about Paris is that I never feel like a stranger here.
It became my home long before I arrived here from all the wonderful travel stories and novels that I had read.
I strongly believe what Ernest Hemingway wrote in his famous Parisian memoir "A Moveable Feast", that if you spend some of your youth in Paris, you will carry it with you forever.
The French policy after the initial devastating effect of Covid-19 was to increase awareness among people and gradually open all the places.
Usually the longest queue on earth is seen at the Louvre Museum in Paris, in front of Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa. It is after all the most famous art work in human history.
But what about now?
We knew that after several months the museum was opened, although the authority wanted people to buy tickets online and select specific time slots so that they could control the traffic.
This time, going inside the Louvre or Musée d'Orsay was easier due to lack of crowds.
In every corner there were liquid hand sanitisers and no one was allowed to enter without a mask.
Everywhere there were instructions telling people to maintain distance from one other and all the visitors followed them.
We witnessed the queue in front of the Mona Lisa portrait where people seemed to be a bit too close to each other.
But the rest of the museum looked emptier than usual.
Then we went towards the Eiffel Tower.
Usually we had to wait almost two hours to get the ticket and go to the top.
It was re-opened for tourists after 80 days and the queue in front was still long but nothing compared to usual times.
It was a sunny afternoon when we got to the top.
It cost €26 for a single visit and still there were lots of people there, all wearing masks.
From the top, nothing seemed changed but you could always spot the absence of traffic, especially by the Arc de Triomphe.
On all of the famous wide avenues there were much less traffic than usual times.
We heard that in Paris, the subway was under strict regulations, any person without a mask was fined €160.
So people were concerned about the lockdown as well as about the expensive fines!
We visited the beloved Notre Dame for the first time after it got burnt and it was still under construction.
But it was pleasant to see the World Heritage Site recovering slowly from the ashes.
Soon the stone gargoyles will resume their duty and amaze us with their presence.
One lazy afternoon, we wanted to visit the wonderful Sacré-Cœur Basilica, known as the Sacred Heart of Paris.
From there we could get a different view of Paris from a hill top.
We found quite a huge crowd there.
There were also family gatherings of locals, all wanted to have a breath of fresh air and a clear look at their beloved city.
The fear of a second wave of the pandemic was in everybody's mind and they were scared about the next lockdown.
Even then Parisians wanted to grab the opportunity to go out.
In the same neighbourhood, the famous cabaret Moulin Rouge was closed but the Café Noir and Amelie café were open.
All the cafés were bursting with visitors, but none were allowed to enter without a mask.
We found the famous restaurants and sidewalks by the River Seine empty with almost no tourists.
I observed that all the river boats had only a few people. And the music cafés had none.
It was interesting to visit Paris during the pandemic.
It was an experience I never had before, I do not think anyone had actually.
I am sure this difficult time will go away, and the whole world will bloom again, and life in Paris will become normal again.
But till then, let us remain cautious and maintain all hygiene guidelines.