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Lockdown letter from France

“U.S. citizens who live in the United States should arrange for immediate return home or be prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period. Have a plan to depart from France that does not rely on U.S. government assistance.”

That is the daily message we receive while on lockdown in a small village in southern France. We have no internet, or television, poor cell service, and every flight we have booked back to California has been canceled with no definitive departure dates from the airlines. Fortunately we do have a rented car that allows us to purchase groceries and make clandestine trips to the nearby woods to forage for the wood we use in the fireplace to keep our little house warm — which it isn’t most of the time.

When the virus broke out at the beginning of March, just 3 days into our stay in France, we were on a mission to furnish the little village house I had recently purchased in order to rent it out during the summer. Summer rentals would pay for the expense of running the house and allow me to also spend three or four months a year here. I had it all figured out — this dream come true.  The stone house with tile floors had a few pieces of furniture in it when we arrived. But mostly it was empty and cold. We needed everything — everything! I was looking forward to the fun of finding great deals from local flee markets and treasures in nearby villages.

Instead lockdown happened. Lockdown in France is like this: You must print and present a certificate stating your name, address and time of departure and destination. Police are around stopping vehicles to do a check. There are four reasons to be out of the house: Food, medical needs, exercise and essential services. If exercise, one is permitted only one hour and 1 kilometer from the house. No recreational biking is permitted except for children on bikes if they are outdoors with a walking adult.  Anyone caught violating the permissions is fined.  A lot. If you forget your certificate, you are fined.

The postal service no longer operates in our village. The police don’t seem to answer the phone either, which is concerning in case they are needed for an emergency. There are so many new ways of doing things and no one to ask when help is needed: i.e., cell phone recharging, where and how to replace the butagaz on the cooker, where to find a doctor, etc. It may seem as if a simple Google search would provide needed answers, but try doing a search with no internet and poor cell service. It is an exercise in frustration.

So, searching for wood, gathering rocks and wild plants for a rock garden, repairing what few pieces of furniture we have with makeshift tools, walking through the vineyards and apricot orchards that surround the property, hand washing clothing and draping them over trees to dry, creating face masks from an old T-shirt found on a walk, taking time to make simple meals and feel so grateful for the healthy non-GMO food available. These are the things that fill our days. 

The quiet is palatable — no sound from cars or planes: only birdsong. Oh wait a minute. That sounds pretty awesome! It is. It is like a step back in time, forced refuge, living moment to moment, finding pleasure in the simplest of things. I remember that on this very land my mother and grandmother suffered — really suffered — during years of war, no food and definitely no way to communicate to the outside world. I can still sneak over to the next village where my girlfriend has a summer house with Wi-Fi that I can use a couple of times a week. It is cold there and the connection is slow as tar — but it is a blessing so many did not and still do not have in the world. It is from there that I will send this little message to you , my community, with great love.

I do not know when I will be back stateside or when the planes will stop being canceled but I hope you are well, safe and appreciative of all the blessings that we do have amid all the challenges that exist.

A bientot!

Diáne Mandle is an Encinitas resident, author and Tibetan bowl sound healing practitioner.


Douglas Goodhart April 14, 2020 at 3:35 am

Ellen, she is a fake. She has not drawn a clear picture.

There has not been a minute that I have lived in France when I do not have internet. High speed internet.

Diane’s story is fake. She want’s, pathetically, for people to feel sorry for her. The real story is above, as you actually know.

Ellen Gregg Cusac April 12, 2020 at 4:19 pm

Such a clear picture you have drawn, I have the sense I’m with you there! I feel for you, Diane, and miss you. Sending you strength and love my dear. ❤️??❤️

Douglas Goodhart April 12, 2020 at 3:50 am

This Letter is HIGHLY sensationalized. I live in France and this is not the story.

Diane’s experience is in a remote village that has few services to begin with. I live in a town of 34,000, Sens 89100, and is representative of any town in France, now. We have all food and sundries. WE HAVE TOILET PAPER AND ALWAYS DID. The Covered Market is open MWFS and is monitored by the Police. The Police help us keep 10 ft distance in a line outside the Market.

Macron asked the People to stay indoors. Most did, but Parisians, primarily, did not. So, in a broadcast on TV he yelled at us. He said he gave us a chance to do the right thing. So, he came down and installed the current restrictions. These restrictions are as appropriated as they can possibly be.

The Police answer their phone, Diane.

La Poste is open every day, with authorities helping keep the proper distance, 10 ft

Our doctors are working and non-elective surgery is totally possible.

You can buy gaz because it is essential.

Boulangeries are open because the French deem bread essential.

I have home wine delivery; and food delivery if I want it.

Most important, people are staying in! My town is a ghost town, as it should be, right now.

Diane’s letter is most disturbing for the reason that it teaches Americans nothing, when they have a lot to learn. The 6ft distance is a meme. Do you remember when Americans were saying it was 3ft? That was a meme and 6ft is a meme. Use European protocols and do not cross others, inside OR outside. The new information about aerosols is so important. This virus is transmitted through the air.

People ask me here, often, if I am glad to be in France, just now. I can’t think of a better place to be. Seriously.

Diane, does your village have a boulangerie? Give me a call, number at bottom. I am happy to be a friend of your’s here. Make friends with me on FB to see how the Police are helping us ( i am Douglas Goodhart from Univ of California.)


Douglas Goodhart
06 36 11 97 41

Patricia Kattus April 10, 2020 at 4:42 pm

What a lovely reminder of all we have to be thankful for! Nature is awakening all around here in Encinitas, as spring has sprung. Wishing you all the best in your French cottage and hope to see you when you eventually return, Diáne! Thank you for sharing your adventure!


Denise April 10, 2020 at 4:29 am

Beautifully written is exactly right! What an unexpected adventure. Sending you love And patience. We shall meet again Encinitas. I feel certain of this., , but for now, we wait.


Ana M Lizano April 9, 2020 at 2:48 pm

It comes as no surprise how this piece is so beautifully written my “Renaissance friend”. Thank you for sharing, as hard as the actual circumstances are, you’ve managed to find the beauty in this uncertain, chaotic experience.

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