Awakening

The iconic 'Croisette' seaside promenade is rarely as empty as it looks in this May 12, 2021 photo

The iconic Croisette seaside promenade is rarely as empty as it looks in this May 12, 2021 photo

On April 27, 2021, we flew from Raleigh to Atlanta on a Delta B737 on which every third seat had been blocked, from Atlanta to Paris on a nearly empty Air France A350, and the next day from Paris to Nice on an A320 that was almost fully booked—I doubt there were more than a couple of empty seats. We arrived at home in Cannes shortly after 2 p.m., amazingly enough with our luggage that had successfully followed us through both connections.

In retrospect, we should have traveled two or three weeks later. When we arrived, France was still in partial COVID-19 lockdown: only stores deemed essential were open, there was no way to eat in a restaurant, not even on a terrace; at best, it was possible to order and take out food. In addition, there was still a 7 p.m. curfew: anyone in the streets after that hour required a permit or faced a fine of 130€ (over $150 as I write this). This situation had been going on since October of last year, so people were looking forward to an easing of the restrictions announced by the government for May 19. In a first step, restaurants and bars could serve customers again, albeit outdoors only. Stores, museums, cinemas, and theaters could open, though with limited capacity. Finally, the curfew was moved from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

About one week before the great day, Cannes seemed to gradually awaken: stores that had been closed for months started re-arranging their window displays, there were more people in the streets than in the previous days, outdoor furniture of restaurants started to be piled up outside, beach restaurants were preparing to welcome guests again, bulldozers began spreading the huge piles of sand that had been delivered to the town beaches, in short, there was a flurry of activity that contrasted sharply with the past weeks. Cannes was coming to life!

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One week before the partial reopening, workers in town are busy Most stores are closed, so there are few people in the 'rue d'Antibes'

One week before the partial reopening, workers in town are busy

Most stores are closed, so there are few people in the rue d'Antibes


Cleaning the store windows ahead of next week's opening Here, the outdoor furniture is ready to be set up

Cleaning the store windows ahead of next week's opening

Here, the outdoor furniture is ready to be set up


Literally tons of sand have to be moved to make the beach usable The terraces of the beach restaurants must be swept and set up

Literally tons of sand have to be moved to make the beach usable

The terraces of the beach restaurants must be swept and set up


All kinds of items are being delivered Most of the time, the beach is still deserted

All kinds of items are being delivered

Most of the time, the beach is still deserted


Further east, there's still much sand to be moved... ...and the few people have to share the beach with the machines.

Further east, there's still much sand to be moved...

...and the few people have to share the beach with the machines.


But most of the town  beach looks great already For the first time in months, the soft-ice vendors are getting ready

But most of the town beach looks great already

For the first time in months, the soft-ice vendors are getting ready


On the 'rue Hoche' in town... ...outdoor furniture is coming out of storage.

On the rue Hoche in town...

...outdoor furniture is coming out of storage.


It is first just piled up haphazardly... ...but then set up properly respecting the social distancing guidelines.

It is first just piled up haphazardly...

...but then set up properly respecting the social distancing guidelines.


With a smaller outdoor space, the Bagel Café has fewer chairs The 'rue d'Antibes' has mostly shops and fewer eateries

With a smaller outdoor space, the Bagel Café has fewer chairs

The rue d'Antibes has mostly shops and fewer eateries


Meanwhile, by the shore of the Mediterranean... ...much progress has been made: everything is set up and ready.

Meanwhile, by the shore of the Mediterranean...

...much progress has been made: everything is set up and ready.


On the 'Croisette', empty chairs are less common... ...as more visitors seem to arrive in Cannes every day.

On the Croisette, empty chairs are less and less common...

...as more visitors seem to arrive in Cannes every day.


On May 18, the 'Bistrot Le Casanova...' ...looked as desolate as 'La Messounière.'

On May 18, the Bistrot Le Casanova...

...looked as desolate as La Messounière.


But one day later... ...on May 19, 2021... ...people can eat outdoors again!

But one day later...

...on May 19, 2021...

...people can eat outdoors again!

Finally! On May 19, 2021, we ate at our favorite restaurant, La Meissounière, and even though we had anticipated the moment since we arrived, we were not disappointed. We had reserved a table, and so we were seated promptly upon arrival; people without reservations sat down on a step across the street waiting for a table to become available, a familiar scenario in most of the town's restaurants. In the meantime, we were sipping a glass of rosé pondering what to order. Decisions, decisions...


The Forville market remained open with fewer vendors... ...but the cafés next to it are opened for the first time in months!

The Forville market remained open with fewer vendors...

...but the cafés next to it are opened for the first time in months!


On the recently redesigned 'rue Félix Faure', now without cars All over town, people enjoy grabbing a bite or a drink...

On the recently redesigned rue Félix Faure, now without cars

All over town, people enjoy grabbing a bite or a drink...


...something they couldn't do yesterday. On the terrace of the 'New York, New York' restaurant

...something they couldn't do yesterday.

On the terrace of the New York, New York restaurant


Looking towards the station on the 'rue du Vingt-Quatre Août...' ...and in the opposite direction on the same street.

Looking towards the station on the rue du Vingt-Quatre Août...

...and in the opposite direction on the same street.


It's too early for lunch in this side-street restaurant On the beach, they are ready to serve lunch, too

It's too early for lunch in this side-street restaurant

On the beach, they are ready to serve lunch, too

At last, being in Cannes is beginning to feel like being in Cannes again. On June 9, there will be a further easing of restrictions all over France; restaurants will be able to serve customers indoors again, and the curfew will be moved to 11 p.m. Starting on June 30, there will no longer be any curfew. Many questions remain, notably in the area of international travel, particularly travel to and from countries that are not part of the European Union. Still, one cannot help but feel that we are on the right track; with the number of vaccinated people increasing every day and the gradual easing of restrictions, things are looking up. Let's hope that this doesn't give rise to unwarranted complacency!


The photos on this page were taken from May 12 to May 21, 2021.




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