Around France

Back to France Mid COVID

Maybe I’m crazy for traveling during a pandemic, but I couldn’t wait any longer. I wanted to get back to France mid COVID. 

In October, I made a big decision to leave my home in Uzès to go to the States to help my family with some business matters. I promised myself I’d stay with my son for six months max. Little did anyone know the Coronavirus was around. Much less, that it would literally paralyze the world.

The Big Wait

My six-month plan stretched to eight. Every day, I read news stories about the virus in Europe and in the US. I kept a daily record of new virus cases and deaths. My macabre chart proved that if I cared about my health,  I would be better off in France than in Atlanta. Georgia.

For one thing, should I contract the virus, medical care would be assured and more affordable for me in France now that I am in the French health system. If I were to come down with COVID in the US, I couldn’t depend on available hospital space. Nor could I assure I could afford a long term hospital stay or potential rehabilitation.

From my emergency hospital experience and rehab in France eighteen months ago, I knew I would be better off there. (Read more here …)

Once my mind was made up, I just had to wait until traveling from the US to France was opened and available. With a current Carte de Sejour and tax documents proving I’m a French resident, I didn’t expect any problems with border control on either side. Just in case, I had all types of official papers ready to show on request.

After Lockdown

Lockdown ended, and the world was letting loose. I took the plunge. I booked the overnight Delta Airlines flight from Atlanta to Charles de Gaulle (CDG) in Paris, a train to Nimes, and a taxi to Uzès. In close to 24 hours, I was literally transported from one space to another. It was as close to time travel as I ever expect to experience

When friends and blog followers, primarily through Facebook, found out I was taking the leap back to France during the virus, they asked me to document the journey. Many people have their own reasons for wanting to travel to France as soon as possible. So here it is .. a near blow by blow recap,  including photos.

Back to France Mid COVID

Step #1: Departure- Atlanta Hartwell Airport

Atlanta’s airport, the busiest in the world. Well, not today. The few people at the airport were distancing, very respectfully, and most wore face masks. There were no restaurants open. The food court was empty. The only store operating was Hudson’s newsstand.  The choices of snacks and drinks were limited, but hey-ho, I wasn’t there to eat — just water, please.

When it was time to board, passengers were admitted to the gate standing six feet apart. The exception was for groups traveling together.


Back to France Mid COVID

Step #2: The Flight

My usual choice for airline tickets is Economy Comfort. I need a little extra legroom. Before buying my ticket, Delta assured passengers we would be spaced a minimum of every other seat. After boarding from the back of the airplane, it was apparent the promise was real. There were two seats between the other passenger occupying the middle positions and me. An aisle and an empty seat separated me from the person to my right. There were many seats and rows that were vacant. No reading material was in the seat-backs, except for emergency instructions.

Before takeoff, the attendant announced a COVID declaration would be passed out to all passengers. The simple, one-page document included statements that either you have had Covid, or not. The attendants picked up the signed papers before landing. That was it. No other paperwork was required.

During the flight, meals were served, but we were not offered in-between snacks or beverages. The attendants did pass through the aisles numerous times with trays of water and juice in small plastic cups. The atmosphere was eerie and quiet. Everyone wore masks, and pretty much stayed in his or her seat. I entertained myself by watching the movies Little Women and Harriet, but no sleep.


Step #3: CDG Airport to TGV Train Station (Gare)

Arriving at Charles de Gaulle Airport in the early morning after an overnight flight is always a bit disorienting to me. Nothing ever looks quite the same. Since I was in no hurry to meet my train that was scheduled around noon, I took my time and I recorded the route with photos. I was meeting another American ex-pat who lives in Uzès, who was arriving from Dallas. I promised I would text landmark photos to her so that she could find her way to the Gare. We were traveling together from here on the TGV train to Uzès.

Happy that I was traveling with only carryon luggage, I passed quickly through the baggage area en route to the TGV station, The self-imposed baggage restriction made me feel better about making the trip. The fewer people I came into contact with, the better, Packing for the trip, however, was a nightmare!

Exit through the baggage pickup area en-route to the TGV station

Exits from the airport baggage area lead to the TGV Gare

Directional signage to the trains after exiting the baggage area

Up escalator from baggage, then follow the signs to the trains

Just like Atlanta Hartwell Airport, CDG was basically deserted.

Back to France Mid COVID

Step #4: TGV Train Station (Gare) and Train to Nimes

Now that I recognize the icon for the trains at CDG is different from the airport shuttle, finding my way around is much simpler. On some visits through CDG, I’ve had to find the shuttle to get to an airport hotel. For this trip, I needed to get to the TGV station. There is a difference!

Fortunately, there are now a few signs along the route that help make the distinction between the shuttle and trains quite vividly. 

This one would be so much clearer if it pointed to the right… and down … since there’s no “up” escalator here… oh well.)

 

Arriving at the TGV terminal, I saw the number of people standing around had increased significantly. Places to sit were clearly marked, and most travelers respected the guidance. Groups of armed guards walked around the waiting area frequently, scolding people who weren’t wearing masks. Eating or drinking in the area was forbidden since it would require taking off face protection.

Train to Nimes Pont du Gard

Like clockwork, the train to Nimes Pont du Gard arrived right on time. Usually, there is a double-decker train with a dozen or so cars that goes the route to Nimes/Montpelier. This time it was a single-level train with, maybe, ten passenger cars. For the first time along my journey, I was bumping up next to other people while trying to stow my luggage and find my reserved seat. Every place in the first-class car was filled. The saving factor was that everyone was covering their nose and mouth. A conductor came through the train several times to check for masks. During one inspection, I was scolded for letting mine slip below my nose.

Sur le nez!

The dining car was closed, but I’d brought along a snack and a drink I picked up at the train station. Eating and drinking were allowed on the train. 

 

Step #5: Nimes Pont du Gard GARE

To make my journey as safe as I possibly could, I chose to come into the new Nimes Pont du Gard train station because… well, because it was new. The station in downtown Nimes is quite old, and it’s in the middle of town. The Pont du Gard station is brand, spanking new. Exiting the train and finding my waiting taxi was a breeze — and all out in the open spaces.

MADE IT!

Home Again!

How do I feel to be back in France? Ecstatic! I’m voluntarily quarantining for two weeks. No one even mentioned it along the way … except for the taxi driver.

Nevertheless, being a shut-in is helping me get acclimated to the time difference and food. Yes, my friends stocked my refrigerator with my favorite things … anchoide, tomatoes, cucumbers …. and wine, of course!

Hopefully, this step-by-step view of my trip back to France has answered some of your questions about traveling. On June 15, the restrictions for travel to France for European visitors is being lifted. There is no indication when tourists from countries outside Europe may be allowed to enter France.

Meanwhile, stay tuned … there are a lot more Barefoot Blogger adventures to share with you!

 

44 replies »

  1. Interesting and such useful info. Thanks you. I always enjoy your posts as I love France….had to cancel our trip this year….always spend a few months in Paris and then Antibes from Aug. This year we had rented a beachfront penthouse in Golfe Juan which is a lovely little beach village between Antibes and Cannes. Good luck and a wonderful healthy and safe summer.

    • I’m hoping to get in my car and take a few road trips to Nice and nearby towns. In the States I was glued to “Riviera.” Not for the story as much as for the beautiful setting. I want to find those same spots! Never fear… if you love it, you’ll find a way to return when the time’s right. Thank you for your encouragement.

    • I did pay for the train tickets in advance. I usually buy insurance but this time I didn’t. If I had missed the train due to illness or delayed air travel, I would have gotten a refund. If in doubt, you can insure your purchase for a refund.

  2. I am so glad you are safe and sound in Uzes in time for sunny weather! We are stuck in NYC and cannot leave for France:( our daughter now lives in Nantes and has advised us it is not yet a good idea to go. We are thinking after July, but are so wanting to make the leap like you did!

    • I wanted to get back before another wave of the virus comes along. It’s all a risk, no doubt. But, on this side now, I’m so glad I did it! Best wishes for safe travel wherever you decide to go.

  3. Bienvenue chez toi! Thanks for sharing your journey. I know how pleased you are to be back in your happy place! <3

  4. Welcome home! In March, I came down with Covid-19. The healthcare in France is excellent, I can happily report. One more thing I love about living here.
    Stay well.

    • Thank you, Barb. I am so happy to be back in this part of the world—for healthcare, for sure. Hopefully you are recuperating well from your bout with the virus. I look forward to following you on your blog. Thanks so much for the note and for the good wishes.

  5. So happy you are back “home”. Your reasons for return to belle Uzes sound very logical. I look forward to your upcoming posts. You are living my dream. As a visitor/tourist who every year for the last 5 years has stayed in Provence and love it there, I do not know when I’ll get back again so will have to live vicariously through your blog.

    • It is so hard to know that plans for travel are having to change, and that everything is so uncertain. France is such a beautiful, interesting place with so much to share with those who love to travel. Life doesn’t stand still, but it seems, for awhile, we’ll have to find a way to slow it down. The good news is that life and places in France have survived the worst of times. This, too, shall pass. Stay hopeful and stay safe! Thank you for reading and commenting. I appreciate you.

  6. We are so happy you’re back – and every time I read you blog I learn something even though I live here! Bienvenue!

    • You have made my return to Uzes even better, neighbor! Now we have to wait out this crisis, but we’ll be doing it together! Thanks so much for your comment. It really means a lot to me.

  7. Deborah, Thanks for sharing such a detailed and helpful account of your journey. I could just feel your excitement and determined spirit as you made your time-traveling way closer to Uzès. All the best to you in navigating the next months! Mary

    • You’re so right, Mary. I was more excited about returning to Uzes every moment of the journey. Now that I’m here, I’m so grateful that I took the plunge when I did. Next will be photos of life in Uzes, so I hope you enjoy continuing this adventure with me. Thank you!

  8. So appreciate this info. Please continue to keep your log about daily covid counts there in France. Also please keep me informed about what’s open there and whether you will be able to do the tour in Oct. I really want to be there, but not if there is a resurgence or if half of the itinerary is not happening. Even tho I have travel insurance, I don’t have the luxury of your familiarity with the system, your knowledge of the language, or being in the French health care system. Stay safe but enjoy being back with your friends.

    • We are disappointed to postpone the Memories Tour and the Reunion Tour, but they will be on again in 2021. Whoever thought we would be in a global pandemic! When it’s time for you to travel, I’ll be happy to pass on any tips that will help. Just ask. I’m so happy you’re planning another visit!

  9. So happy you’re home in your beloved France. I’m delighted to be an armchair traveler with you. Last year at this time I was in France. Hopefully will be again soon! Stay safe ❤️

    • I really appreciate your following the blog. It’s so much fun for me to write it. It’s even better to know it’s helpful to fellow travelers. Hopefully you have lots of photos to remind you of your visit to France last year. Travel back when you feel safe.

  10. It really is exciting to follow your travels home to France! It probably was much better with less people on plane/airport and no crowds. Did you buy train ticket on line ahead of time? How long was the train ride? Traveling in airport and getting to correct train does create high anxiety for me. Your photos are helpful. Looking forward to future blogs.

    • I hoped the post would be helpful to any who are traveling or afraid of travel. I was very fortunate — so far — that those around me were being very protective of themselves and me. The train was the only time I felt exposed, but everyone was polite and wearing masks. Definitely ride first-class trains since they give more individual space for passengers. I always stressed trying to find my way around CDG. Knowing the icons for the train station versus the airport shuttle helps. Taking photos helps, too. It makes me focus! Thank you for following and for letting me know you’re there.

  11. Enjoyed reading your report and hearing that it went well. We are anxious to return to Burgundy – but do not have the French resident advantage. Did you need to show any of your documents at the passport control at CDG? Merci!

    • I have never visiting Burgundy, and it’s definitely on my list. The only documents I showed at passport control were my carte de sejour and my US passport. The agent only asked where I was going and where I live. Hope you get back to Burgundy soon. Thanks for reading the BFB and commenting. Let me know how it goes on reentry.

  12. Glad you had a relatively easy trip. I can imagine how tiresome it must have been. Look forward to more stories.

    • It was a much easier trip than I expected. Packing was the worse part! Thanks for following and glad you’re enjoying the adventure…

  13. Thank you Deborah, we wanted to include the train from CDG to Nimes vs flying into Marseille, but were concerned how difficult it would be. You giving step by step really helps. Howard and Drue Lynn

    • Except for the close quarters on the train, it was a good choice. I didn’t think a small plane would be much better. Plus, I didn’t want to hang around in the airport that long. Keep me posted.

    • Isn’t that interesting? You certainly take an armed guard seriously! They were doing double duty with drug dogs, too. Very efficient. Thanks for the note🤗

  14. Welcome back! I know you are happy to be back. I have always felt the same way! I’m glad to know about the new TGV station. It will be much more convenient than Avignon or downtown Nîmes. Hope to see you soon. Rainey

    • The new station is fabulous, but it’s at least as far as Avignon! But a good option. Yes! Let’s plan a get together when I’m outta here!

  15. Deborah, fascinating report. So glad your trip. Was simple and non eventful and how lovely to be back in France.

    • You know how happy I am to be back. Since quarantine I’ve ripped this place apart to get everything just like I like it. Can’t wait for traveling to resume…safely! Thank you so much, Margaret. Stay in touch!

  16. Thank you so much for sharing your mid-Covid travel experience, Deborah. You obviously did your homework ahead of time, and you were well informed about the protocol in place at airports, on airplanes, in train stations, and on trains. And you are getting closer to life post-quarantine! Soon you’ll be wandering through those lovely streets and squares of Uzès. It’s been a Bon Retour, and now you’re on to a Bonne Continuation! I can’t wait to read more of your Barefoot adventures! ❤️🇫🇷

  17. Deborah as usual this is very nice and informative. It is a little difficult to find the TGV when you land as the signage is not perfect and the arrows point off in not exactly the correct direction. Love the picture of the new station in Nimes but sure wish it were near the Pont du Gard.

    • It seems they move the TGV each time I go! Not so! But it helps to have current photos. The signage is getting better!

  18. Nice report! Similar to our experience from LAX to CDG, except we connected to another flight to get to Toulouse. No trains this time. Glad you made it back safe and sound!

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