To borrow from Bob Dylan: “When you’re lost in France and it’s springtime too …” (I am purposefully misquoting Dylan’s lyrics), An odd feeling sitting a hotel in Toulouse, France, not knowing if your flight to leave the country will happen. No cafes, bars, museums, etc. are open. Our train to Toulouse was cancelled on Tuesday so we bought a ticket for today (Monday). Got to the station this morning. No trains. We got on a bus instead. It is springtime in southern France, and the land is lovely. The bus took us through villages that one doesn’t see from the train. It was an unexpected treat.The Holiday Inn airport hotel we’re in is pretty empty and is closing in two days until early May. I hold tight to the belief that France WANTS foreign tourists to leave so that we don’t add to their health care woes. But worker’s rights are very strong here, unlike in the US, where workers have no rights thanks to Reagan’s labor busting 8 years as president … so trains, buses, planes … will soon be shut down. One adapts. We brought a picnic lunch of roast chicken, olives, tomatoes, cheese, artichoke hearts, bread, and wine in the hotel room. No restaurant but room service is available after 7 pm. Oh yeah. We get a free drink at 6 pm. Vive la France!
I had some very interesting comments from a Facebook post yesterday, my tale of trying to leave France via the UK and fly into Boston, one of the magic 13 airports open for international travel. Some of you suggested my traveling companion and I should remain in France. We may have no choice in the matter. We’ll know today. We are on a British Airways flight this afternoon (Tuesday here) for London. If you are not here, you have little idea of the draconian measures being taken in France to slow or stop the virus. There will be few buses and trains for a while, then none. No metro in cities that have metro. No cafes. No bars. No museums. No gyms. Need a haircut? Closed. Buy new sock? Closed. Grocery stores remain open. Pharmacies, too. Bread and pasty shops are open. Everything open is carry-out only. Soon, France will impose more rigid rules for social contact, like Italy has had for two weeks. Yet the virus keeps expanding in Italy. We’re not trying to get out because we’re scared of being here. The French medical system is superior to the US system and yes, even foreign tourists can get medical treatment. But tourists actually are a burden to France under these circumstances. We feel we are acting responsibly by leaving. Last night we listened to a speech by the French president – my friend did a lot of translating so I too could follow the speech – and it was clear that France will soon follow Italy into a total lockdown. Compared to Europe the US is only at the beginning stages of what likely will come. This is not something that will pass in two weeks, may not in two months. Yesterday’s world will not be tomorrow’s world. One adapts, adjusts, and tries to be helpful. I think for each of us how we go about this is different. Our circumstances are different. Our world is different and changing daily. Go on line and read the list of countries in Africa, South America, Asia, and Europe that have closed their borders. Want to go to Kenya? You can’t! India? Forget it. Come to France? Not possible unless you’re a French citizen or resident.
To me, it feels like it’s time to be home, to be available to help friends and family, to plant my garden in spring, to air out my office and write a new book or script. In the Buddhist philosophy – everything is temporary, even the world as we’ve know it for years.