Will it really happen?
I am starting to write this on the morning of Friday 15 October, and my flight is on Tuesday evening. My fingers are crossed.
At the start of October I decided I should use up some of my accrued holiday time.
Once I started to think about it, I realised I would be safer from the virus almost anywhere in the rest of Europe than I would be by taking a holiday in the UK (and sad to say, that includes Scotland). Infection rates in Scotland are outrageous by comparison to other European countries. Scotland had 141 deaths in the week to 4 October.
Meantime we are encouraged by the government messaging to get on with our lives as if nothing had happened, but be nice and be careful. Let me just suggest the high infection levels are a reflection of comparably high levels of selfishness and stupidity.
Well, on 3 October I made my decision and after a bit of research I booked a 9 night trip to Portugal. I fly to Porto with Ryanair and fly home from Lisbon with easyJet. I will have 2 nights in Coimbra along the way.
I could write a whole blog post about how I came to the decision – maybe I will – but Portugal’s high vaccination rate, low infection rate and generally well educated approach (as seen from a distance) to the current state of the pandemic were big factors.
Since then I have been working my way through what is now required to travel there, and to travel home afterwards. I am fully vaccinated, and I have a paper certificate as well as one on the NHS Scotland app. It is not the EU vaccination passport – because the Tory Party lunatics would self combust if we were to buy into that – but we will see. I am assured that it will be accepted everywhere because… it is British.
I will get a PCR test tomorrow (£80), and another wee piece of paper to prove it. I will have to complete Portugal’s online passenger location registration.
This week Scotland dispensed with pre-flight testing for vaccinated travellers arriving from Portugal (not a red list country) so I just have two hoops to jump through for my return flight. First, I have had to book a test to take within 2 days after I get back. £68. Then I will have to complete the UK’s online passenger location registration – reputed to be an utter nightmare.
Talking of utter nightmares, this will be not just my first international journey since the pandemic hit us here in March 2020, but also my first since the Brexit shambles was forced upon us by the crooks and gangsters in London.
I have to be able to show Portuguese immigration that I have booked a flight home, that I have booked accommodation for my stay, and that I have sufficient funds to cover my expenses while I am in Portugal. I will be printing a lot of pieces of paper over the weekend.
After having 3 holidays cancelled during 2020 (Tunisia, and Russia twice), one of my biggest concerns about booking a new one was the risk of another cancellation. Clearly the relaxation of restrictions after the vaccination programmes around Europe has reduced that risk and encouraged me to be bold.
The UK’s infection level certainly increases that risk, as other countries could decide to put the UK (or parts of it) on their red list. The high infection rate – and hush, nobody talks about this – also increases the risk of the UK producing a new variant of the virus.
I think it will. I just hope it does not happen before Tuesday.
© iain taylor, 2021
Complex organisation, well done! I was in Portugal for a month after my Camino to Santiago in 2009. Left for Porto right after the grand church service at Santiago Cathedral… not a good idea. Took me 2 weeks to re-adjust to travelling alone! Eating was a problem. A pharmacist told me it’s common for “pilgrims” to feel as I did, after a month on The Way among familiar faces. I got something to boost my appetite (and spirits) and was better when I reached Lisbon.
The feeling that I’d “missed” Porto bothered me for a long time. However, I fondly remember a great Art Nouveau library, Lello on Rua das Carmelitas, and Café Majestic, Rua Santa Catarina.
Have a great trip!
I really enjoyed Porto. Away from the tourist bits, it was laid back and fun. Might be different when more travellers are around, of course.
I envy you. Porto is a destination which is well worth a visit but which is not overrun by tourists. It is no Venice, Paris, Rome, Prague. Visit one of the port wine houses for an enjoyable introduction to the city’s most famous product. I discovered porto branco; it was a revelation. Slowly the world is travelling again.
I was very hesitant about foreign travel, and really the clincher for me was Portugal being so, so much safer than Scotland as far as Covid infection rates go.