Since our retirement in 2016, we have been spending a majority of our time traveling the world. Life offers you no guarantees in length. So while able, we will continue to forge ahead at full steam.
Our original plans for 2020 were The American Samoa Islands, New Zealand, Australia and Tasmania. Once we completed that section of the world we would spend the rest of the winter in SE Asia with it’s ridiculously low cost of living (compared to ours), then Japan and home. But, it just wasn’t coming together and that’s a sign we use to change directions. When God gives us roadblocks it’s time to regroup.
So, the new destination became Portugal, Spain, Morocco and France. With several months of discovery we could slowly work our way through these areas. As we have now checked off Portugal and Morocco, we were making great progress in Spain until the virus CV-19 started getting out of hand.
As we continued to read about the lockdown plans in Spain, we knew we had two choices – return home or find safe lodging.
What do we do?
Option1: Our flight home is leaving out of Paris and we were 14 hours away via train. There was no way we were going to spend 14 hours on a packed train before the lockdown. Plus, we would have to take a train out of Madrid – the epicenter of the virus. NO WAY! Not an option.
Now that we knew the lockdown was taking place in 48 hours, EVERY United States citizen in Spain is trying to get back to the states. We were in a unique position because we did not have jobs that demanded our presence and our return tickets weren’t for at least 30 more days.
Getting through to the airline on the phone was impossible and they were only dealing with return tickets in the following 72 hours. Getting online and changing your ticket was met with website crashes and only the ability to cancel your flight. Graciously, they put a cap on the cost of rebooking your ticket of no more than $5,000. Yikes!
Option 2: Find a small town, avoid Madrid and ride out the quarantine. Since we had done lots of research prior to our trip, we knew several towns that would fit.
Within a 16 hour timeframe, we found a town, got a hotel (with food), cancelled our previously scheduled lodgings, packed, hopped a metro, train, bus and set our feet in Segovia, Spain. Saturday evening, Spain started tightening restrictions. All restaurants, cafes, etc were closed. By Sunday only grocery stores, bakeries, meat/produce markets and pharmacies were open. Monday dawned and the population was only allowed to walk to/from these stores. Otherwise, stay home.
Surprise! Monday was the, “I’m sorry but we are closing the hotel today at noon” (it was now 11am) kinda day. After a discussion with management, they allowed us to stay one more night to give us time to gather ourselves and find a place. So doing what we do best, change plans and start surfing for options. We checked flights – $2500 per person. And we would have to get to Paris CDG. 12-14hr train to get there. No seats available and chaos was occurring in US airports.
Next option, (dejavú all over again) lodging in town. We scored on a place not too far away from the hotel – three cheers for Airbnb. The key points were: bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, Internet and washing machine. Knowing the discussion was a 2 week restriction, we would need these things. Fortunately, we found what we needed, packed our bags Tuesday am and moved to our new abode.
The Schengen Agreement was signed in 1985 to start taking down European countrys’ borders among other things (no visa/passport checks, no internal security checkpoints, etc). The EU evolved to what we know today. Tuesday March 17 opened with all country’s borders closing throughout Europe. Only nationals of that country, emergency personnel and trade were allowed to cross. Good thing we didn’t try for the flight home! So in Segovia we are and will remain until otherwise notified.
We are in the Old Town part of Segovia where the population is small. You are allowed to go get groceries, tobacco, pharmacy items and return quickly. So, each morning we plan our meals and walk to the pastry shop for our morning croissant and coffee (to go, of course). Everyone keeps their distance and many are wearing masks and gloves. We pick up our fresh produce at the little stand next to our apartment and everyone waits in the street giving everyone space. If we need groceries, one of us will wait outside and the other will go in to shop. At 8:00 each evening the windows open and everyone claps and cheers for the health care workers. It’s really heartwarming to see and hear this happen.
The grocery stores are fully stocked. No struggling for toilet paper or chlorox wipes. Europeans shop very differently than we do in the USA. It’s not uncommon for them to shop every day or two days. They don’t “load up” they just buy what will be used until their next trip to the store. Therefore, we have not seen any bare shelves and the stores are fully stocked the next morning.
Most grocery stores are small and you only get your basic items here. Milk is not in the refrigerator section, it’s all “shelf” milk. No refrigeration needed. If you want meat, you go to the butcher shop. The fish markets are small and depending on the type of fish will dictate which fish store to visit. Same with cheese, fruits and veggies. Yes, it’s time consuming but everything is super fresh.
The police are present and they are quick to tell people to get back to their homes. If you aren’t carrying your bag with you, then you are talked to and told to return home ASAP. Your trips to the market need to be quick. The street department comes through each evening and removes the trash, wash the streets and even power spray the garbage bins. No germs are going to grow here.
Moving to an apartment was the best decision that we made. We were blessed to get a huge unit with a full rooftop terrace. The terrace is HUGE and is a great way to get outside without running into any people. So far, we have been the only two in this four story building to use the terrace. It also provides us with a good place to do a quick workout and yoga routine daily. It’s really hard to look out over the terrace to see the beautiful trails that we can’t access now.
Today, we had an overcast day with temperatures in the 60’s. We look out over the City and have enjoyed watching the storks that are nesting with small chicks right now. These birds look like small airplanes as they glide through the air. They chatter and cluck at each other and are so interesting. So, the days are going quickly and we are quite safe.
Is the Shutdown Working?
Well, we don’t know and the number of cases has risen dramatically at the one week mark. I guess it’s to be expected and the real test will be next week. So, get prepared USA because this is coming your way.
Are We Returning Home?
At this point and time the answer is No. We are very comfortable and we had already budgeted to be in Europe for a few more weeks. Our Airbnb is very reasonable and is available for a longer period of time if needed and food is plentiful and reasonable. Right now we can’t cross the borders into France and we don’t want to end up in a possible US quarantine upon return. So, we are watching and reading the news and will see what happens at the end of the month. We will take it a day at a time and we keep working on our Spanish.
Seriously, Its all Good!