I just returned from a 10 day trip to Ottawa. It was not exactly what we had planned for our spring holiday.
Our original plan was to travel to Ottawa so that I could see my daughter while Leon took in a conference. We would spend 4 nights at a downtown hotel and then take the train to Montreal where we would catch our flight to Paris and onto Portugal. Our trip was meant to last 2 months, starting with a leisurely visit to Portugal, then Spain and then to France where we were to meet up with a group of veterans for a battlefields tour in Normandy and parts of Belgium. I was excited to finally tour Portugal and Spain by train, stay in the major cities and see the coast along the southern part of Spain. I also longed to immerse myself in Spanish culture.
The last 2 weeks of the trip, organized by my husband to celebrate the centenary of his regiment, featured rentals of 2 large houses, car travel and time to visit with 18 others who have a common interest in all things Artillery! (*see the note at the end) And our last days would have been spent in Paris, where I wanted to explore The Louvre in a much more leisurely fashion than I did last time.
Here’s the reality – as our departure for Ottawa approached, I started to think that I had better make inquiries about cancellation policies for our air travel and accommodations. I went back and forth for days, trying to make a sensible decision. The clincher was my daughter reminding me that I would be visiting with relatives who have compromised immune systems. I cancelled our accommodations and made the first of many calls to the airline. Then I left for Ottawa as planned, equipped with plenty of anti-bacterial wipes and hand sanitizer.
The trip to Ottawa was fine, if you consider that March is not the best time to be walking around, seeing the sights. Hand sanitizer and reminders to wash your hands were everywhere, but other than that, it was business as usual.
I did what I would do on a normal holiday – ate the wrong things, drank a bit too much wine and shopped. Although my own suitcase was small, I knew my husband was bringing a much larger suitcase that I could load with my purchases from Giant Tiger.
The flight home was uneventful save for the many conversations about the virus and some extra hand washing and wiping down of my personal area on the planes.
During the week, I spent a lot of time watching news reports and updates about the virus and what other countries (particularly in Europe) were doing as this thing started to progress. Of course Italy is hard hit, and we were even considering dropping in there. And all those people who were on cruises, not allowed to come ashore. Schools started to close, large gatherings were being discouraged. Even The Louvre shut down for a few days. I felt fortunate that I was able to get a full credit for our flights (which we will certainly use at a later date; one of the perks of being retired is less travel restrictions.)
What saddens me is the cost to people’s economic life. I met a lady at the airport who told us she was about to retire for a second time, thinking of encashing her investments. Of course this is not the time for that! She wondered when a good time would come.
I think of all the businesses that are affected by the many closures and discouragements to travel. How will they recapture this loss income? I think of those who don’t have the luxury of staying home to prevent spreading illness as they don’t get sick days from work. How will they pay their bills if they can’t earn their usual income? I think of the staff on cruise ships. Do they get told their upcoming job was cancelled, so stay home? And that is the best case scenario, assuming they aren’t on a quarantined ship somewhere. I think of the population that is at risk such as the frail and elderly. Will some of them have to go without seeing their family for a long stretch for fear of contagion?
Ok, so you get the idea. I haven’t even talked about the mania of people hoarding consumer goods. I personally don’t shop at Costco, so at least I’ve been able to avoid that.
So in light of all that I’ve mentioned, you can imagine that going on a vacation where the usual comings and goings that are so much a part of what makes a culture distinct, would not be all I had hoped for. What is the Champs Elysées if you can’t sit at a sidewalk café and enjoy people watching? Would going to Madrid and not being able to see The Prado be a big disappointment? Of course it would!
I guess I’ll stay home, enjoy spring in the lower mainland and dream of the trip we will be able to take when the world is open to all. For now, I’ve got a lot of laundry to do.
*For those of were joining us for the Battlefields tour, we have not cancelled that at this time. We still have hopes that we can fly to France in mid April and continue as planned.