I am writing this while on day 11 of self isolation. I am ‘paying’ for the fact I took a one week holiday to the sunshine island of Crete, Greece, and frankly, I don’t care.
Of course, if we (I went with my partner) hadn’t booked the trip on Travelzoo and found ourselves locked into our all-inclusive five star trip to a place called Stavros, just as the government decided we’d have to do two weeks of quarantine when we got back, then yes, we probably wouldn’t have gone.
We’d have cancelled our hotels on Booking.com and sucked up the £50 apiece Ryanair flights. And we’d have missed out. We had a great holiday in a place where the Covid rating was considerably lower than back home and we were there during a 30C heatwave. Result!
While some long haul countries require you to quarantine when you arrive for 14 days in ‘a government facility’ ooh very Stalin-esque, Greece asks you to complete a Passenger Locator Form (PLF) which you must fill in at least 48 hours before you travel and which you need to carry with you when you enter the country.
You get the document you need to take with you the night before you’re due to travel. We also signed up for EHIC cards, European health cards, as we weren’t sure our insurance would cover any treatment for Covid (well, you’ve got to be prepared). These, tragically, will become obsolete following Brexit at the end of this year, but that’s another story.
We flew from East Midlands Airport, arriving so early for our flight the check in hadn’t opened and the flight was pretty empty. Everyone was seated apart for the four hours of travel to Chania.
It was only when we landed and started queuing at Passport Control in the airport that people seemed to forget social distancing. ‘Wankers,’ I thought as I kept loudly announcing that I wasn’t moving up yet because of the “TWO METRE RULE!”
Some people were whisked away for a random Covid test. I wasn’t sure of the criteria, but if this had happened to one of us then we’d have had to self-isolate in the hotel until we received a (hopefully) negative result a day later. Rather than be an annoyance this actually made me feel safer still.
We stayed in the ‘five star’ Mr and Mrs White in Chania. Actually not really sure where it got its star rating, but it had nice white, spartan decorated rooms and lots of amenities. Yoga classes, tick, pilates tick, darts…I did none of them! I did go to the gym once. I had to get the key from reception then sweat it out on my own in a small room full of gym equipment. It felt slightly weird.
As it was all-inclusive, as soon as you arrive they slap a wristband on you and you can run amok ordering cocktails and massive glasses of wine to cart along to your buffet dining experience.
The food was OK, but as it was dished out by staff, rather than something which you’d have served yourself pre-Covid, it had the feeling of school dinners (so maybe that’s why it didn’t exactly live up to its five star rating).
Plus it was a bit repetitive with the same dishes appearing for lunch and dinner and even breakfast (Greek salad for example).
Gorgeous views though and lovely staff. However we aren’t lovers of 24/7 poolside, so for two nights we headed to Chania, which was about half an hour’s (25 euros) taxi ride away.
This was a chance to soak up some authentic Greek culture and the astonishingly beautiful harbour built by the Venetians in the 14th century.
We had taken a change of clothing and essential toiletries as we decided that instead of booking somewhere online we’d present ourselves in person at any hotel we fancied.
Our first stop was a small place with access from the cobbled back streets called Porto Antico. ‘Ah yes. I have a room!’ said the owner as he led us to the most charming room with a small balcony and views over the divine harbour. It was 50 euros (£45) a night.
We didn’t intend to but we stayed for two and had a lovely time wandering the sea front, drinking coffee in tavernas and finding some amazing food at Tamam, a restaurant on the same back streets as the entrance to Porto Antico.
We didn’t want breakfast, but instead went to the cafe next door to the hotel where the owner served us fresh juices, Greek coffee, tea or ‘Five O’Clock tea’ as he kept calling it. It came with free slices of chocolate cake and we’d join in morning conversation with the locals.
Of course I fell in love with the place. It was completely charming and apparently nowhere near as busy as a pre-Covid summer when it gets rammed.
I’m not saying that travelling abroad during a pandemic is for everyone. But if you feel like escaping – and can do the whole self isolating thing when you get back – then do it.
You’ll be helping the travel industry which has been severely hit by Covid and you’ll be able to see how other countries are coping. The people of Chania, who rely heavily on tourism, had clearly had a bad summer with the prospect of making very little over winter, but it didn’t feel that way. It felt normal.
Not ‘new normal’. Just normal and that’s a fantastic way to be at the moment in our benighted world.