“We’ll go through security at 8 p.m.”
“Wow, look at the spider!”
“So, mask on when we step back inside the airport, alright?”
“I wonder how spiders see the world.”
“And then it’s gate… 63. Wait, what?”
“SPIDERS! I wonder how they see the world. Like, they’re pretty small and—LOOK, A PLANE! See the sidewalk over there? It must take them hours to cross the road. Do they ever go this far?”
“… You lost me. Okay, planes. That’s normal, we’re at the airport. As for spiders… let me wonder about it once we’re somewhere above the Atlantic Ocean. I have to focus on our trip for now.”
“Why are you so stressed out? It’s just France!”
“And it’s just a pandemic, remember?”
So, this trip is complicated, buddy. First, the Canadian government discourages non-essential travel so I feel like I’m breaking the rules even though technically, I’m not. Second, it’s just the two of us, we’ve just said goodbye to Feng who drove us from Ottawa to Montreal and who is now probably wandering around the parking lot to find his car and go home. Third, I hope I’m on top of the latest COVID-related measures because I don’t have that much pandemic-travel experience.
Yes, I’m stressed out.
Packing our two backpacks was the easy part. Canada is now on the “safe country” list so we’re allowed in even for tourism but I still have my French passport and Mark’s French birth certificate plus our Livret de famille just in case. I also have two declaration forms certifying we don’t have any COVID symptoms, plus an attestation de déplacement dérogatoire—not sure if the latest document is still required (apparently France doesn’t update governmental websites that often) but you never know.
Face masks, checked. Hand sanitizer, checked. Sandwiches for dinner, checked. Good thing I brought food, Trudeau Airport in Montreal is empty and most stores are closed.
So far, so good. We have our two boarding passes and I dropped off the backpacks at the Air Transat counter.
We go through security easily and cross the airport to get to Gate 63.
Even though YUL is much quieter than usual there are still planes flying and travellers travelling, mostly to Europe—Zurich, Toulouse, Paris but also to Doha (Qatar, yes I looked it up).
We boarded on time and in a very orderly Canadian way. The plane was actually pretty full and definitely cleaner than usual—“disinfected with hospital-graded products,” Air Transat repeated a million of times. As usual, one of the entertainment system didn’t work, Mark’s this time.
“Go ahead, plug your headphones into mine. All movies suck, anyway.”
“But there’s POKEMON!”
I allowed myself to relax for a minute. I know plenty of people are scared of flying—or rather scared to be stuck in a plane with a bunch of possibly asymptomatic people—but for me it felt refreshingly normal. Not dangerous, mind you. We all had masks on and passengers made a point to give each other space as much as possible. I wasn’t stressed out about that.
We landed in Paris seven hours later—neither Mark nor I slept during the flight.
“Every time I land in France, I’m almost shocked there’s no snow on the ground,” the French-Canadian woman sitting next to me laughed.
“For me it’s the fields,” I explained. “All over the place with small villages in the middle, not neat squares like in Canada.”
“Feels extra special to be there this year, doesn’t it?”
Going through immigration took about two seconds.
“Huh? But we have them on!”
“Yes, that’s why I need you to take them off to see your face. Alright, thank you.”
And that was it. No extra paperwork needed, no temperature check, nothing.
We waited around the baggage carrousel for a good forty minutes and stepped into the arrival hall. There was a small table with “free COVID tests” signs written in several languages.
“Free?” a couple said in Mandarin, walking by. They sounded interested, mostly by the “free” part of the procedure.
“Want one, honey?” a French woman asked her husband.
“Nah, we’re late already…”
Mark and I rushed across terminal 2 and 1 to get to the RER station, then 16 stops later we got off at Denfert-Rochereau, where we rushed to catch the subway to Montparnasse. We arrived at the train station with ten minutes to spare. I bought a drink and we boarded the train.
Mark immediately fell asleep and I relaxed.
We made it.