Travel in the Time of COVID-19

23 Oct

23 October 2021.

So, my friends, it has been a bit since last I blogged. After Ortisei we headed to the Alpe di Siusi for two nights and then passed three nights in Merano, a new-to-us town in Italy’s Trentino Alto-Adige. Lovely place with nice walking and an exceptional garden at Trauttmansdorff Castle. Photos below. 

Then we turned east instead of proceeding west as planned — a left instead of a right if you will — practicing the flexibility we expected might be needed during travel in the time of COVID-19. Venice called and the call was rewarded with mostly light crowds and fine weather. Without cruise ships there were no throngs of lost day trippers gaping at the scene and clogging the bridges. 

From Venice, three nights in Paris, always a fine stop before taking the EuroStar to the UK. 

Enough about locations and travel direction. This post is about conundrums: the observations we have after almost two months visiting five countries and the idiosyncrasies of pandemic response.

  • We could fly into Germany with proof-of-vaccination…but Italy would have forced us to quarantine for 5 days. Switzerland allowed us in as vaccinated persons so we went there first and stayed for almost 5 weeks.
  • After 14 days in another bloc country, Italy would allow us to visit without quarantine…but no one ever checked to see that we had actually spent the required time before entering.
  • Switzerland demanded we complete a pre-arrival questionnaire online that dispensed an approval code…but no one asked to see it. Ever. Ditto Italy. 
  • The canton of Valais in Switzerland provided us with a QR code proving we were fully vaccinated, the so-called “Green Pass” for the EU…but the actual scanning of the pass was erratic in Switzerland though mostly compliant in Italy and France.
  • Swiss trains do not require the Green Pass…but taking a EuroCity train from Switzerland to Italy did require it. An official came through the train before the border to check that we had the credentials.  
  • High-speed Swiss, German, and French trains sell food and drinks on board…but the Italian fast trains do not for COVID safety reasons*. This was startlingly inconvenient on our 8:18 AM three-and-a-half-hour trip from Venice to Torino. 
  • Parisians are very mask compliant on public transportation (and I love that they do not talk on trains or the Metro)…but in Italy and Switzerland there are a lot of exposed noses.
  • In Italy and France, one does not need proof of vaccination to check into a hotel, nor to eat breakfast in a common area…but one has to show a Green Pass to even have a coffee inside a café. Restaurants checked proof-of-vaccination assiduously. I was a wee bit worried about the breakfast room situation. By contrast, in Switzerland a Green Pass was required check-in to a hotel because of the dining/breakfast room situation.
  • The EuroStar requires vaccination or a negative test result to go from Paris to London…but in England they do not require proof nor even masks on the Tube, trains, buses, nor in museums and restaurants. 

*When I wanted coffee on the TGV from Torino to Paris, the bistro was not open even at 11:00 AM. However I had seen someone carrying coffee cups. I stuck my head in the door where a woman was preparing the service area and asked, politely, in Italian if it was possible to get coffee. “Certamente, Signora!” I think I bought under-the-counter coffee as the services were not opened until we crossed the French border. 

Other observations

Hotels in Switzerland, Italy, France, and Germany are still serving breakfast, on a buffet, requiring a mask to approach the food. They are also servicing rooms daily, unlike in the US where COVID-19 has become an excuse to cut services. It was wonderful to have our bed made on the rare occasions we stayed in hotels, and to have someone tidy up, not to mention laying out breakfast. (We have only stayed in hotels 12 nights in 9+ weeks.)

Why-oh-why can’t people talk on a phone without pulling down their mask? And what is the need for a lengthy conversation on a crowded cable car going up a mountain? That would annoy me even if there wasn’t a nasty disease circulating. 

No one in any country is able to measure one meter (generally advised distancing in Europe) or six feet. I find it really unnerving in England where people tend to queue up just as pre-pandemic. Shudder. We are wearing masks. Everywhere. 

England requires even vaccinated visitors to get a COVID test on-or-before Day 2. We tested negative so I guess our strategy of distancing, masking, and generally anti-social behavior worked. 

We are currently in Salisbury, England, a place we visited in spring of 2019 and were quite taken with. The apartment we found is cute and comfy (at least there is heating on demand unlike Venice in mid-October). Monday we go to London and we’ll be home in Oregon on the 30th. Not sure I will be able to stay awake for Trick-or-Treating on Halloween, though. 

No especially relevant pictures for this blog, but here are a few snaps from our activities since we left the Val Gardena. Click on any picture for a slide show.

16 Responses to “Travel in the Time of COVID-19”

  1. apollard December 10, 2021 at 17:21 #

    Fascinating reading, thanks Laurel.


  2. chloe erkenbrecher October 26, 2021 at 09:45 #

    Where I Iive in California, each county has its own rules. Sacramento county mandates masks, but Placer county, which borders Sacramento county, does not require them. It can become very confusing and I’m not sure anyone has the right answer. I just wear a mask in public. Have you heard of the walk in Paris that is on top of an old railroad line? Incredible, and if you haven’t taken it, do so the next time you are in Paris. Thanks for sharing your trip with all of us.


  3. Sue October 24, 2021 at 19:51 #

    Laurel I loved reading your travel notes. Your descriptions of Covid consistency or inconsistency did not surprise me. People everywhere seem to fall into camps of fully compliant, partially to come and catch me compliant. One day I want to travel in your footsteps. I better get ready soon! Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Laurel October 24, 2021 at 23:11 #

      Thanks for reading, Sue! It has been fun to have something to write about after all this time!


  4. Diana Shaw October 24, 2021 at 18:21 #

    I loved this post going over all the different things that you went through due to COVID. Very interesting. When you get home lets get together sometime.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Laurel October 24, 2021 at 23:10 #

      Yes! Time for a Femmes gathering, perhaps?


  5. Kim October 24, 2021 at 07:05 #

    I still have the fondest memories traveling in Venice with you two!! Safe travels back home.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Laurel October 24, 2021 at 09:45 #

      We had such a good time, didn’t we? We talked about that trip several times while we were there!


  6. Gina King October 24, 2021 at 02:54 #

    You two are definitely staying fit and sharp minded with all the hiking and keeping track of covid rules! Good for you!


    • Laurel October 24, 2021 at 03:56 #

      Ha! You should see ho much we are eating because of the hiking! The pastries, potatoes, cheese, chips, and extra wine comes to an end next week.


  7. Marcia October 23, 2021 at 16:57 #

    I loved reading all of your learnings on this trip but how in the world did you keep up with all of this! So erratic. Such different approaches. And you said it correctly: in the USA Covid is now a big excuse for no service.

    I’m entirely impressed with your thorough planning- your trip is out of this world interesting.


    • Laurel October 24, 2021 at 00:07 #

      Thanks, Marcia! The planning last summer was a bit arduous but as we traveled we just figured out and followed local guidelines as well as doing what seemed safest for us. There is an online publication called “The Local” for several countries and I subscribe to keep up with Italy, France, and Switzerland. That has been most helpful with shifting policies.

      We have had a ball! Going back to Venice was impetuous and Paris is always magical (with GREAT food!). We splurged a bit more than usual with a couple of nicer hotels, first class train tickets to help us maintain more distance from other people, and some private transfers or taxis to ease the schlepping factor in a couple of places.

      Already planning next year!


  8. gayleseely October 23, 2021 at 09:33 #

    It is interesting how every region/culture/country has developed their OWN interpretation of what is proper safety procedure. Likely this has happened in other categories of the years and then a certain set of rules finally takes the lead. I really think there is so much guessing going on – and we are probably going to find out much later that many of those things were essentially worthless. Love that hindsight.

    It looks to me like you would be happy to go back to home in Rome, and not have to trek all the way back to Oregon. And I SO get that. So many beautiful things so close.

    Enjoyed your comment about talking on the phone through a mask. I agree it is a habit – I find myself doing it. On the other hand, at the opening performance of the symphony, for Mahler’s second symphony, there was a choir of 120 standing behind the orchestra. I kept waiting for them to lower their masks – then I would know they were going to sing. They never did. They sang their whole part – about 20 minutes, I think, through their masks. We could hear them just fine.

    Have a good trip home. Hope to see you in November.


    • Laurel October 24, 2021 at 00:01 #

      Politics surely enter in to the decisions of what is and is not acceptable. In England, masks are a personal choice and there is no “Green Pass” so who knows who you are sitting next to in a restaurant? You have to trust the vaccine! As long as hospitals are not overwhelmed and schools can sustain in-person learning, we have to learn to live with it. For my part, masks will be employed in stores for the foreseeable future, but we are not going to stop living, traveling, enjoying the company of other vaccinated people.

      I love that the choir was able to sing through masks!

      We are looking forward to seeing you guys! Give us a week after we return to ensure we did not pick up any virus 😷and to get over jet lag, then we’ll make a date!


      • gayleseely October 24, 2021 at 09:01 #

        Yes, you are right about learning to live with the virus. I plan to mask for the foreseeable future and just got a couple of in-home Covid test kits. At least I can check if I am unsure, Safe and smooth travels home. It is VERY wet and stormy here and we are predicted to have a wet and stormy winter. Great quilting weather.

        Liked by 1 person

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