Lithuanians think of it as the city of love. Now it is a city suspended in time with dark shades of war stories belonging to another era—a ghost town with many empty streets and deserted buses. A permit is required to walk on the street and leave or enter the city.
Restaurants and most hotels are closed. People are queuing in front of bakeries and supermarkets, keeping a reasonable distance. Usually, busy thoroughfares and streets along the Seine are devoid of cars and people. No Bateaux Mouche ply on the Seine, just an occasional barge filled with merchandise.
On Monday, the French President announced extensive measures and a full lockdown in France. Mr Macron declared war against an invisible enemy that is claiming lives by the hundreds in neighbouring countries, every day. Schools closed last Monday, and many inhabitants did flee to the countryside before the full lockdown.
Paris police no longer fight demonstrators. Now, they control cars and all movement, notably, in the touristic centre and railway stations. No more tourist waiting for an hour or so ready to enter the Louvre, or visit the Paris City Hall. They have all disappeared. The seedy entertainment around the Moulin Rouge is completely deserted. Near the desolate Sacre Coeur no children are lining up for the carousel.
Cities are not meant to be like this. Now, one can hear the sound of birds welcoming Spring. That will be very a restricted enjoyment for most as on Friday the mayor declared additional measures to keep the Champs the Mars (around the Eiffel Tower), the broad esplanade in front at Les Invalides (Napoleon’s tomb), and the space along the Seine even less crowded.
Last Saturday there had been near riots in the sanitary sections and the pasta sections of supermarkets. By Tuesday, normality had returned. Flower shops are closed, but supermarkets offer a bouquet of 50 tulips for five Euros! Staying at home can be colourful, and the internet is full of people becoming resourceful.
The city seems to be digging in for the long haul. Meanwhile, the invisible enemy only appears in sobering daily reports with sobering statistics.
The Lithuanian Embassy in Paris meanwhile assisted more than a thousand stranded Lithuanians giving valuable advice and helping in their return home. Several hundred have returned on chartered aeroplanes. One left Friday, and another is leaving on Monday from Paris.