We’ve never worked harder in our lives to make this second Camino work. In just 72 hours we, intrepid travelers, have experienced one challenge after another as we make our way along the Portuguese Coastal Camino during this new world of COVID. Yet, as we settled in at an outdoor restaurant in Oporto, Portugal and raised our glasses of Albariño wine in a toast, we were ecstatic to have made it this far. Here are 5 takeaways from our Jacobean odyssey:
1. People are traveling with a vengeance. Sure it’s the summer holidays but the airports in Los Angeles, Dallas-Ft. Worth and Madrid were jam packed with travelers dispersing in all directions. People are hell bent on making up for lost time during last year’s lockdowns.
2. COVID Travel Restrictions are confusing. As we make our way from airport to airport I am reminded of the old line from the war movies where the Gestapo officer leers at the traveler’s paperwork and utters the dreaded words, “Your paperwork is NOT in order.” Ouch! While the airlines will not permit foreign travel without the destination country’s seal of approval-a reference or vector code (Use Verifly or Sherpa Apps), we note, for example, our CDC (Center of Disease Control) vaccination records seem to carry little weight in Europe.
3. Most foreign airport and immigration officials require a 48-hour antigen or 72-hour PCR COVID test result. We have witnessed a number of disappointed travelers turned away at the boarding gate their only crime–being out of sync with the requirements. Because we missed our flight in LA and lost one day in the process, every check point has been a nerve wracking, heart pounding experience. We’ve learned which bureaucrats to negotiate with and which ones to avoid.
4. Just when you think it’s over. Imagine, after 72 hours making it all the way past dozens of grumpy officials at airports in the United States and Europe only to be informed by Fernando, the desk clerk at the iconic Grande Hotel do Porto that our 48-hour antigen test has expired. In ugly American tourist mode, I pounded the desk, “But we’re both NEGATIVE…we’ve been vaccinated…we have no symptoms.”
“So sorry Mr. Strange but my country changed the law just this week.”
However, all was not lost. Fernando apologized profusely before pulling out a pair of ‘rapid tests’ (2 Euros each) to which we eagerly submitted.
“Just like a pregnancy test,” the desk clerk winked and then upgraded our room for the inconvenience. We fist-bumped Fernando as the tests turned out negative. Please note, some restaurants can turn you away if you cannot produce your COVID paperwork.
5. Oh yes, I almost forgot—the Camino. This is the one card up our sleeve. Say ‘Camino’ and even the visage of the coldest bureaucrat will be replaced with a smile as he/she waves you through the line or checkpoint while uttering the two most beautiful words we know, “Buen Camino!”
“Hey,” I whispered to my wife, “we’re getting pretty good at this.”