It suddenly dawned on me that we’re somewhat intrepid travelers in these Covid times.
And I’ve got some advice for you who are brave enough to follow in our footsteps and attempt a European vacation.
Be flexible. The official rules change regularly. The social standards are evolving daily. People who haven’t eaten indoors in more than a year are slowly and sometimes reluctantly returning. And when they do, they are often faced with different rules by different restaurants.
For example, several (but not all) restaurants in Ireland required us to show proof of vaccination and provide our phone number for contact tracing purposes. The first time it happened was at Bewleys in Dublin. God bless the young man for his patience as we dug through our smartphones for proof of vaccination. Grainne found her certificate on a hospital app. I simply had a photo of my certificate. He accepted both.
But it’s the official rules that leave me scratching my head. Our original plan was to fly to London and meet up with our son Pierce and his wife Ghazal. Then we were going to shoot over to Ireland to see Grainne’s brother.
When we were making our travel arrangements, the UK was still requiring a 10-day quarantine. That meant - even if you were vaccinated and tested negative for Covid - you had to spend 10 days in quarantine. Either in an official quarantine hotel or with a friend or relative. And not leave your room. Seriously.
So we changed our plans and flew into Amsterdam, which was wide open for American tourists. Flying from there to Ireland was no problem either as Ireland relaxed its restrictions.
Having almost given up on visiting London - Glory Be - the UK authorities changed the rules and dropped the quarantine. We decided to go for it and head to London to see Pierce. But it wasn’t that simple. The UK did have some conditions: (1) Prove you are vaccinated, (2) Get a negative result on a Covid test 48 hours or less before traveling, (3) Fill out a Passenger Locator Form telling the authorities where you’re staying and (4) Agree to take another Covid test two days after entering the country.
Let me emphasize this isn’t easy or cheap. You have to figure out where to take the pre-flight COVID test. Pay in advance. Book a time slot. And pray your result is negative after you’ve checked your luggage.
Likewise, booking the two-day test can be confusing because there are scores of testing companies to choose from with prices ranging from $45 to $150.
Now I want to be clear. I have no problem with any of this. I love to travel. And I especially love traveling in Europe. So if the governments have rules to prevent the spread of Covid, then I’m going to fall into line.I’ll wear a mask. I’ll be tested. I’ll show my vaccination certificate with pride.
I’ll do my part. The question is whether the authorities are really doing their part.
Here’s how things went down this morning as we said our goodbyes to Grainne’s brother and sister-in-law. They drive us to Dublin airport early on Tuesday morning for our appointment at the Covid testing center. We sail right through, get our brains tickled with a Q-tip and check in for our flight.
An hour later, we receive our negative results and before you know it we’re on board and flying to London. We land, collect our luggage and walk straight out of Heathrow and into our taxi.
No one asks for the results of our Covid test. No one requires us to provide proof of our two-day test. And not one person looks at our Passenger Locator Record. Come to think of it, nobody even checked our passports.
I don’t know. I do know that I’m a rule follower at heart. So Mr. Boris Johnson - if you want to check my docs, I’m ready for you!
Other Stuff We’ve Been Doing
Just so I don’t forget it, we popped up to Dublin on Monday to visit the National Gallery of Ireland. Some solid works of art on display - from Caravaggio to Monet and lots in between. My favorite piece was “The Taking of Christ” - a piece done in 1602 by Caravaggio and presumed lost to the ages. Until it was found hanging in a Jesuit Dining Hall in 1990. You can’t make this stuff up. Read about it on the museum’s website.
After our journey to London on Tuesday, we didn’t try to overdo it. Afternoon tea at the glorious St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel followed by a quick visit to the British Library, where we spent time with the national treasures including the Magna Carta, original handwritten manuscripts by Charles Dickens, Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters. Not to mention handwritten lyrics by Lennon and McCartney.
And for those of you who might be headed to the movies to see the new film “The Green Knight,” a special treat awaits you in the Treasures Gallery - a 700-year-old copy of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Enjoy this snapshot.