As always I planned our spring trip in the fall. I need the lure of a spring trip to get me through our Ottawa winter. The plan this year was a month in Lagos, in the South of Portugal followed by a road trip in April. The first few weeks my sister Ruth would be along for the trip and Alain and Terry were to join me later in the month. In early April Mum would head off to see my sister Jenny in France and Alain, Terry and I would take a road trip from Lisbon to Porto and through the Douro valley.
By the time March came along we were getting a little nervous about the situation in Italy but Mum, Ruth and I left for Portugal as planned on March 5th. On arrival we took a taxi to the hotel in Lisbon, our taxi driver was coughing and sneezing and was very unsanitary and it made us quite uncomfortable on that first day. We spent two nights in Lisbon and all seemed close to normal, just a bit quieter than usual.
When we arrived in Lagos on March 8th to the same apartment that we had rented last year it felt like getting home. I was very happy to be in an environment we could control. We do our own cooking and there is a wonderful supermarket just next door. Lagos is an interesting historic town with beaches, cliffs, a river, lots of birds and a nice vibe. For the first few days things seemed almost normal, although quieter than before but by the end of the week lockdowns were starting. We rented a car and went for a few outings but then even the beaches were closed and we stayed inside. By March 13th I had managed to change our flights, for a flight home to Canada on March 24th. It seemed like a long time to wait but it was the earliest flight Mum and I could get. We stockpiled our apartment with food and Ruth left on March 20th as planned for her original flight home.
When it was time to head to Lisbon for our flight we had planned as carefully as possible to have a minimum of contact with others. We rented a car one way instead of taking the bus, we took food for lunch, supper and even for breakfast the next morning. The plan was to have almost no contact with anyone until we were at the airport. It was working perfectly until I get a call from Alain early on the morning of the 24th saying that our flight had been delayed by 21 hours! He just happened to verify at 2 am Canadian time. I had not been notified by Air Transat so left Mum at the hotel and walked to the airport terminal five minutes away to find out what was going on. All of the passengers were lined up for check-in but I spoke to a staff member and they had just found out themselves that the flight for that day was cancelled. I only found out on the way home the next day that it was because the pilot and one of the flight attendants came down with Covid-19.
By this time most of the hotels in Lisbon were closing, including the one where Mum and I had spent the night. Air Transat managed to arrange buses to take everyone to the Holiday Inn where we were to spend the night before being bused back the following day for a 9 am flight. I was quite upset because all of the planning to maintain social distance from everyone was out the window. It all went very smoothly though, they did not pack us onto buses but only put twenty people on a coach that could hold forty and only two people at a time in the hotel lobby for check-in. We were lucky that we had packed an excess of food and were able to have a lunch of sardines, crackers, cookies and fruit in our hotel room where we spent the day reading and watching TV. I was very upset in the evening to see that the supper they were providing us was a buffet. I talked to the staff explaining Mum’s age and they served two plates in the kitchen, which I then took up to the hotel room on a tray.
The flight left on schedule the next morning and we were very happy to land in Montreal. Alain met us with more masks and drove Mum to Ruth’s in Ottawa and then us to our home in Gatineau, just across the river. We are now both on day seven of our self-isolation, isolating from others in the house and not allowed out for even a walk. I’ll be happy when the 14 days are over and that we are sure we did not pick up this horrible virus on the way home.
Staying safe: We usually take disinfectant wipes with us but were even more careful this time. We wiped anything we could touch in the planes and buses with Lysol wipes including the seat belts. I always take dish-washing liquid and a tea towel with me to wash glasses and mugs in hotel rooms but this time I also washed down and sanitized every knob and surface we could touch. We placed the remote control in a plastic bag (Thanks Ruth for this one) as they are practically impossible to sanitize. We had purchased masks before leaving and used those on the plane. Hopefully all of these precautions worked!
Now we just wait and hope this all works out soon, a vaccine, a cure, who knows where we will be a few months from now.
Stay safe everyone!