If the world held a beauty pageant for landmarks, the Eiffel Tower would stand a good chance of winning. It's a beautiful monument, for sure, and I'm extremely privileged to have seen it sparkling in the night sky above Paris.
But during the last two months, I had not been able to get anywhere near it.
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When France's lockdown began on March 17, 2020, I found myself stuck in asuburb next to Paris. Due to severe travel restrictions designed to curb the spread of Covid-19, no one had been able to venture beyond their immediate surroundings without risking a three-figure fine.
And so, despite living just a kilometre from the capital, I'd been no closer to entering its gates than when I'd been living in New Zealand.
No surprises, then, that on the the first day of déconfinement, I seized the opportunity to rediscover a city that had kept me at bay.
On that cold Monday morning I left home, leaving my tattered attestation form behind, and crossed into Paris.
After eight weeks of quarantine, there was no telling what Paris I could expect to find. But at least one thing was clear: that day was far from summer.
Somehow, after two months of glorious sunshine, pre-lockdown weather was back on the menu. It was as if winter itself had gone into confinement, only to reemerge on the same day as the whole country.
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As I walked through the 15th arrondissement, I saw Parisians in thick winter coats.
Whenever a stranger crossed their paths, they would perform street acrobatics to avoid entering their bubble. Darting around in all directions, their eyes were a picture of constant worry.
Unlike last time I'd been in the City of Lights, most people now had masks on, which made the streets look like a plain-clothes surgeon convention.
Passing a cathedral in Montparnasse, I saw volunteers handing out food. Nearby, rows of delivery bikes were stationed next to restaurants.
When Ernest Hemingway described Paris as "a moveable feast", he probably didn't have Uber Eats in mind. But with indoor dining still out of the question, takeaway sushi wasn't such a bad option.
Passing through an eerily quiet Latin Quarter, I crossed a bridge that led to Notre Dame.
Behind a makeshift fortress, the fire-ravaged cathedral appeared to be social distancing from the public.
Although Paris might be one of the world's great travel destinations, it seemed that neither its travellers nor its destinations were present. It wasn't all that long ago when a Paris without tourists had seemed inconceivable, but so far nothing about this year has made much sense.
In the area near the closed-off Centre Pompidou, I found an outdoor stand and ordered a crêpe. The man at the counter was impeccably polite and friendly, to a degree verging on the unnatural.
Now that foot traffic was at a premium, eateries were fighting toothy smile and nail for every euro they could get their gloved hands on. If Paris had a reputation for surliness, there were sure no signs of it here.
I walked along the banks of the Seine and headed towards the Louvre. A scattering of passersby were aiming their cameras at the museum's glistening exterior, which remained closed to the public. A solitary figure exited the main pyramid, but the square was otherwise barren.
Passing a forsaken Jardin des Tuileries, I reached the Champs-Élysées. Cars and scooters were zooming down the avenue, but there were no tour buses in sight.
On the adjacent Avenue Montaigne, a queue of shoppers were waiting outside a Gucci store for the chance to stock up on handbags. At a time when so many people were scavenging for their next paychecks, at least some had their priorities straight.
I headed down the 16th arrondissement towards Trocadero, where some figures were shooting the Eiffel Tower. Nearby, groups of teenagers were sitting on steps, still in exile from high school.
Walking down the steps, I came across a motionless carousel. A masked employee was standing next to unicorns, looking out for potential customers.
Accordion music came out of invisible speakers, but no one had a ticket to ride.
When the rush hour had finished, I descended into the underground. Save for a few homebound souls, my carriage was void of all life. On every second seat, a sticker asked passengers to sit elsewhere.
After exiting the train, I walked through the subterranean labyrinth to change lines. On the walls, advertising posters bore the scars of Sharpie vandalism. The faint smell of ammonia lingered in the tunnels, but bereft of commuters and buskers they were tumbleweed quiet.
The lockdown might be over, but it was clear that Paris hadn't yet arisen. As to when that might occur, only time will tell.
• William Sidnam is a New Zealander, and was on his OE when the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic struck.