I drank more wine in the run up to confinement than I ever have in a normal year. It wasn’t anticipatory drinking for the doom that was to follow (sadly, I have no premonitory skills) but was instead born of celebration. When a dear friend returned to Paris for a weeklong birthday visit in February, nearly 20 of us packed into La Chambre Noire, a natural wine bar in the 11th arrondissement, shoulder to shoulder, to mark the occasion.
No one questioned whether there was any disinfectant spray on the server’s towel as he wiped the table clean, nor did we even hesitate to drink from our neighbor’s glass if, and when, we lost sight of our own. Perhaps that’s the greatest loss of all to the experience of drinking with friends and strangers—the sense of camaraderie in the tradition of sharing. To have the question à qui est ce verre? yield happy shrugs, and to claim the orphan glass as mine, was a sign of mutual trust.
As the city’s café terraces, wine bars and cocktail haunts sprang back to life in early June, they had new restrictions but still operated energetically, as if our confinement period had been merely an extended holiday. Arriving at a sense of normal was a process, though. During confinement, Paris was a post-apocalyptic shell of a place. It reminded me of the heavy energy and discomfiting emptiness that hung over my neighborhood in the days following the November 13, 2015, terrorist attacks, when the area’s spirit of fête and community were targeted. Just like then, the disruption to our way of life felt permanent until Parisian resilience stepped in. When my local favorites—Bar Martin, Bisou and Candelaria—could finally serve customers again in early June, they were packed. The 2015 message of même pas peur (“not even afraid”) was repurposed as the attitude of this moment.
It was in that spirit that I cautiously ventured out again. Throughout the summer, as eastern Paris began to resemble one giant block party, seating spilling into the street and stretching across sidewalks, I built back my tolerance. I ate baos and beer at Gros Bao, perched on a window seat overlooking the Canal Saint-Martin. I shared a sparkling Burgundy with friends on the sun-drenched terrace of Åke. I sipped oversized spritzes at Chez Prune. I found a different kind of mutual trust in being part of a return to business. But I know now what I didn’t know then: that summer’s balm of boozy resilience would give way to another round of restrictions. Winter, as they say, is coming.