Today is my last day in the Dutch wilderness (a empty campground cabin) without the Hubby. He will join me for these next few days.
A huge storm blew in overnight dumping tons of rain and brought howling winds. At some point I did wonder what would happen if we got enough water that I would float off into the lake while I was sleeping.
Then it cleared. The sky had a million stars. The Weerribben is maybe one of the few places here in the Netherlands where there is minimal light pollution, making it an excellent place (when it is clear) to see the night sky.
I started the day by biking to Oldemarkt, a small village about 3 kilometers from the campground.
The winds gusting to near 25mph I wasn’t sure I wanted to bike but I did need a few items. So I bravely packed my gear and set out.
The thing about biking in The Netherlands is that wind is almost constantly a factor. Knowing that can be more a mental state of self motivation.
“I will have a headwind going, so I will get there faster. Maybe, while I am shopping the wind will magically change direction or disappear.”
We all tell ourselves these sort of lies in order to make it easier keep going.
So, I am sure this is why I saw several stickers today along my route.
As I entered town I saw that the bakery was closed, won’t reopen until 5 January. I saw all the other businesses along the one Main Street were also closed per the national lockdown. So… maybe not everyone in this village believes these stickers.
As I entered into the small village grocery there were a few customers it not anything like I experience in the busy area where we live close to Amsterdam. People were like anywhere these days, some half way made an effort to wear a mask, others not at all. Some people kept their distance, some not at all.
I made my purchases and made my way towards the cabin.
No, the wind did not change magically while I was shopping. So I window shopped some more before tackling the flat expanse. I walked slowly with my bike along side. Noticing things I haven’t seen before on other visits to this village.
There are three churches. An antique store. Two knitting/craft shops (mental note must visit next time I am here). A garden with a miniature train track. What a cool find!
Did they exist all this time? Of course. I just needed to slow down an really pay attention. These items and places are real. Appreciate.
Just because we don’t see things doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
Fake or real we all must determine it for ourselves. Oldemarkt is real, the virus that no one sees is real. Media is real. Sometimes what we see or experience can be fake.
I know the wind was real for my ride across the flat Dutch fields!
Vacation travel in these times takes more planning and is more stressful than in the period prior to the COVID era. Our most recent vacation to the small village of Ojen, Spain was planned months ago and travel remained in question until the day we stepped onto our flight.
Most low cost airlines rely on the gloomy winter weather in Northern Europe to shuttle sun seekers to the Spanish coastal regions. This yearly migration of Northern Europeans to the warmer winter weather zones with possible sunny conditions has kept the Hubby employed for 35+ years. We booked a flight on Transavia Airlines to fly into Malaga, Spain in August not knowing if we would ever get off the ground.
I had a difficult trip to the US in September so I was not excited about this trip. Travel inside the EU is easier as we don’t have to pass through customs or passport control, COVID testing prior to flying is not required inside the EU. Travel between countries has gotten tricky with a raging virus and the constantly changing rules, regulations, vaccinations, and additional paperwork and possible testing adding to any lingering travel stress or anxiety. Notice, I didn’t mention excitement? I used to feel excited going on vacation.
We filled in our paperwork for the Spanish authorities online. Which is similar to a health visa. Answered all the questions on our symptoms (lack there of). Received a QR code, printed it off (old school paper copy as we don’t trust a computer to be actually working 24/7/365 as advertised).
Then the announcement of a new variant of COVID had hit our Dutch shores. Was our vacation at risk?
Would we now be required to get a PCR test prior to flying?
What would happen if things changed while we were on vacation and needed to quarantine in place?
Eye roll and a large sigh, please.
We determined that if a PCR test was needed we would cancel our trip. We discussed the plans for getting out of Spain if the countries decided to place restrictions on air travel. I proposed hiking back to The Netherlands, which instantly was countered with “We can take the train or rent a car…” by the Hubby. I had to laugh as I didn’t even consider those options.
Once we got through security, flight into Malaga, a line of COVID paperwork checks, and finally rental car secured, we headed down the coast to Marbella, Spain. We would head a short ways inland to the small village of Ojen where we would meet the manager of the rental house on the edge of town.
The sun was shining on this bright whitewashed village that has been built on and in the hills of this valley outside of Marbella.
It looked warm and inviting.
As the rental house manager wound through the small streets on his moped and I grabbed the “ah crap bar” above my head on my side of the car as we came within inches of parked cars and fronts of buildings. I wondered how anyone could drive or build a village on the side of a mountain.
What were they thinking?
We suddenly took a sharp right turn and went down towards the center of the city then another sharp turn to the left (nearly missing oncoming traffic and several parked cars), then the street keep going down into the valley away from the village.
The moped turned off the street into what looked to be an unmaintained driveway, only big enough for one car and very steep hurdling us towards the valley.
Suddenly we were at a gate and the house was revealed. Stark white against a clear blue sky. Our home away from home for the next two weeks.
Vacation is all about relaxing for us. We spent our days looking out at the wonderful views from the rental house. Walking up the steep road into the village each day to the bakery or grocery. Each time thinking the next trip would be easier for us, each time realizing it wasn’t. Taking joy in how fast the downhill walk to the rental was with our full shopping bags.
We only ate out twice during our vacation. Both times opting for outside seating. Practicing our horrible Spanish mixed with English we managed fine even through our masks.
The sky in the evening would turn beautiful colors and those colors reflected off the Mediterranean in the distance. The hues of reds and oranges reflecting off the whitewash houses was spectacular.
For the first time in a very long time I felt relaxed, not on alert, not in fear of a virus I could not see, but know is everywhere. I felt safe with the sunny sky and vitamin D hitting my skin from our rooftop terrace. Ahhh… vacation.
When I didn’t think our vacation could get any better, it did! I received a text message from my daughter-in-law that my oldest son had made it home to St Louis from his long deployment in the Middle East. Finally, I could really relax knowing he was safe at home with his wife. They could now enjoy this Christmas together.
We returned to The Netherlands just before the total lockdown. Happy that we enjoyed our time in Southern Spain. Now we hopefully have new energy to tackle the coming months.
We wish each of our readers a safe and healthy holiday season. The Netherlands is in total lockdown until 14 January. Only essential shops for groceriesand pharmaciesare open. Travel in the EU has changed since I wrote this blog several days ago, if you are planning travel please check on restrictions prior to traveling and please follow the recommendations suggested for your travel location.
Hello fellow bloggers and subscribers! It has been a very long time since I was last officially online. I had more adventures than I would like to share this fall durning my travels to the USA.
I finally got to Minnesota after a year and half of COVID restrictions that limited my travel internationally. I did some kayaking, hiking, and spent some downtime with some close friends.
I also have run out of 13GB of storage space on my blog site and have had to make some hard decisions on the future of this site. Making some hard financial decisions is never easy when I have a limited income and things that seem to suck the money out of my wallet. Don’t fear the my blog changes, as my site will continue to be advertisement free and still be my original content of our adventures.
Look for some of the changes in the coming weeks as I get things cleaned up, add some additional items to increase and help with the cost of running this international site. I would be interested in ideas from my readers (many of you have been blogging longer than I have), please shoot me a private message on my contact page if you have something you would like to see on this blog or an idea on how I can finance this site in the future. For now, I have increased my storage to the WP Business level of 200GB. That should help retain access to my older content.
Now that all the rough stuff is out of the way, how was my vacation? More like a nightmare of a trip!
Flying internationally is not fun at all during these times of COVID and being an American citizen has advantages but still the hassle of travel is just that, a hassle!! I will not be traveling to the USA again until things change in requirements of flying!
Here was a small taste of the travel process.
COVID Vaccination 2x in the Spring of 2021. Second shot placed me in bed with the most horrible headache and body aches for two days. Better than hospital with COVID! Plus, I felt so much better once I was vaccinated with being able to move around without the constant fear of catching the virus, maybe passing it to my Hubby or worse giving it to his elderly mother who suffers from dementia and is in a care facility. It was a relief to finally not have to constantly worry. The additional benefit was I was able to start back at my old volunteer job at the Historische Tuin (Historical Garden) in Aalsmeer.
Close to our scheduled vacation (yes, the Hubby planned on traveling with me to the USA and took three weeks of vacation) the USA still was only allowing US citizens or green card holders into the country (the Hubby is neither). We watched both the travel and airline news. I logged into the State Department site daily for weeks prior to travel in hopes that changes would allow the Hubby to fly with me. I purchased my airline ticket and paid the highest price I have ever paid for travel between The Netherlands and Minnesota ever!
Yes, I most likely could have gotten a cheaper flight but at my age I don’t like hopping from airport to airport for more than 24 hours just to fly cheap. Eight hours of travel is enough! I booked a non-stop to MSP with the hopes that the Hubby would still be able to fly and enter the country. As the time got closer, our hopes of a vacation together disappeared.
Then it was the COVID test time. The first test I had taken since the start if this insanity of a virus decided to ascend on our global lives. The rule here for entering the USA was to be tested 72 hours prior to flight. So on the Friday before my Monday flight I was probed with the long cotton swab into the brain tissue just on the other side of my nasal passage. My only thoughts are “why the heck do people get this done weekly for their jobs without going nuts?” “I hope I don’t have anything that would stop me from traveling! That would suck!”
Cost of the test is paid for through the Dutch government, so it was a free test. For those of you living in the USA please remember this fact as I continue on this journey.
I waited 24 hours and received a link to a QR code. That was my secondary ticket to getting on the plane here in The Netherlands. Maybe that should be third ticket as the vaccination also was needed for flight.
I flew on American Labor Day, 6 September. But, I needed two more pieces of paperwork in order to fly. A declaration of health (paper format) so that US Customs had all of us legally if we lied about COVID prior to getting on the plane. I also had to fill out another piece of paperwork for my quarantine requirement upon return to The Netherlands.
I could quarantine for five days and then take a test if it was negative then I could resume normal life, or I could quarantine upon return for 10 days and not take a test. My option after being violated with the Q-Tip was the 10 day option. I only needed to hold onto the last piece of paper, just in case someone asked for it while I was in transit.
The return flight to Amsterdam was even more crazy due to changing requirements and limited test facilities in Northern Minnesota. The fact that most test facilities were overwhelmed with people with an over 3 hour wait even if you have an appointment. It was soon apparently obvious to me that I would not be able to get a rapid test until I got to the Minneapolis airport. The Minneapolis airport has three test facilities (I didn’t know that at the time of scheduling an appointment to be taken during my 5 hour layover). I paid my $200.00 and got the last appointment available for the Sunday afternoon. If I had known about the other test sites I maybe could have gotten an appointment but it was very unclear if the results would be ready prior to my flight.
On the day of my flight out of Duluth, Delta airlines would not let me fly without my COVID test. I explained that I had one scheduled for my layover in Minneapolis and they still wouldn’t let me fly without talking to customer service.
When Delta customer service agent came on the phone he explained that due to Federal Law they could not allow me to fly but I could buy a separate ticket to Minneapolis and then get my test. I purchased an additional ticket if $340.00 plus a $30.00 suitcase charge. To say I was a bit upset at this point would be a huge understatement. Knowing that my Hubby works for an airline I was even more upset as I know there is always a way around the stupid rules without charging a customer double for a ticket. That day was not the day to fight that issue so I paid the money, got on the plane in Duluth and when I got to Minneapolis I went in search of the COVID test site.
I rented a car in Minneapolis as I knew that the testing site was somewhere in the parking garage of the airport. I drove to the test site and soon after I exited the vehicle I saw a sign that told me that if I had an appointment with a certain company for a rapid test then I was at the wrong location.
Now, I was pissed, tired, and even as tough as I am, darn close to tears. It had already been a vacation riddled with medical issues and travel woes this was nearly the last straw.
I took some deep breaths and refocused my efforts to find the test location. Parking level three. Once I found the location it was crowded with people.
At one point during my wait I was approached by a young lady who was escorting a wheelchair bound lady to Paris and had been bumped from three flights due to testing requirements and time limits running out. Could I help, she asked. I listened and told her that if she didn’t receive results in 1/2 hour to go and ask the desk. At this point I got my results and wondered if once I headed to my flight if this lady in distress would be granted her flight.
Once I got to the Delta desk things went smoothly. I was checked in documents checked and boarding pass issued. I was very happy to have my military ID to go through the fast lane but TSA stopped and searched me because my 4 pounds of wild rice set off the detectors.
So I was once again violated by a body search and complete undoing of my carry on luggage that was neatly packed.
It is no wonder that people have lost their minds on flights over the last year. As a well travelled person that is very flexible when it comes to all the changes I was pushed almost to my breaking point.
I was never so glad to be on a plane and headed back to the Hubby.
Safe and sound back at home with the Hubby.
More blogs to follow on my hiking, kayaking adventures in Minnesota in the weeks to come.
Have you ever had a horrible flight during COVID? Share in our comments section.