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A trip across Europe, or moving home in strange times

Part 1 – Switzerland to London

After 20 years I am leaving Switzerland, moving to the UK, Basel to Cornwall. This has been planned for a long time, before Christmas I gave in 3 months notice on my flat. My possessions have been sent to the new house over a week ago, leaving me living from a suitcase. Monday was house clearance and deep clean, Tuesday hand in the keys and hopefully get my deposit back, travel on Wednesday.
And then things happened, lock-down, everything closed, “necessary” travel only. Nothing I had planned for. The move was a juggernaut, it could not be stopped and it could not be speeded up.

Does moving home count as essential travel? I hope so, as otherwise I am homeless.

Monday night I got an e-mail, my flight on Wednesday was cancelled. Normally there are up to 4 Easyjet flights flights per day to assorted London airports, plus Manchester, plus multiple BA to Heathrow. People travel back and forth changing plans at less than a day’s notice. Not any longer, all Easyjet flights were now cancelled until one on Saturday. Not just Basel, also Zürich and Geneva to anywhere in the UK, all cancelled. I found a BA flight Thursday (one day later, nothing on Wednesday), so I bought that and added an extra night in the hotel.

Got a hotel in London overnight for an unbelievable £49!

Today I got to the airport, weird, empty. The videos showed 45 flights, all cancelled bar 2, luckily one was mine. Sitting in the departure lounge, I got an E-mail from Easyjet, the Saturday flight had been cancelled, I made the correct choice in buying another ticket from BA for today. The flight was very empty, about 20 people, one person every 3-4 rows of seats.

I spoke to an Australian in the departure lounge (from a suitable distance). He arrived beginning of March for an extended holiday. He was trying to get home, he had got a Qantas flight from Heathrow that evening. The flight time had been changed multiple times, he was now trying to get to Heathrow in time.

Heathrow was equally deserted, I walked straight up to an empty passport e-gate, nobody in front of me. Amazingly there were no health checks on arrival, nobody saying what the rules were, no leaflets. Just walked out as per normal, except very few people.

The tube was equally empty. Some stations have been closed. I was the only person on the platform at Piccadilly Circus station. The train had only 3 people in my carriage, including me.

London is empty. Normally you see a red bus stuck in a traffic jam. Now you see a red bus a long way away, with only one or two cars. People are crossing the road on a red light, because there are no cars and it is pointless to wait.

Tomorrow train to Cornwall. I have tickets and as of today it is running. When I get to the house I will have to unpack bedding, buy food. I also need to buy stuff for the house: fridge, washing machine, shower gel and other stuff you normally buy rarely. I had planned to get all that in the first few days, how do I get that with all the shops closed?

Part 2 might be a bit delayed, the house does not yet have internet.

P.S. Feels like I am in a bad disaster film ☺

Posted by
784 posts

It may be different in the UK, but here the stores are selling online or by phone and either making deliveries or providing curb-side pickup. Porch delivery or curb-side pickup may not work for a fridge or washing machine, but food and soap should be available. I do think your situation is more essential than most - being stuck in a hotel would create a separate set of issues. I hope your journey continues as anticipated tomorrow and you get settled in short order. All the tips here on sink laundry may come in handy. ;)
Good luck. Looking forward to hearing the rest of the story.

Posted by
8889 posts

@Celeste, the reports I am getting is that online deliveries are booked up for up to two weeks in advance. I will look into that once I am there.
The risk if staying in a hotel, apart from the cost, is that they might do what Spain has done, close all hotels and close airports. The UK government is arranging rescue flights for places like Spain, I did not want to get into that situation if I could get myself to my new home.

Posted by
7606 posts

My word Chris. I'm glad you got as far as you did. Best of luck! I'd be tempted to get some food basics at, uh, Paddington? and take them with you. (Dry goods that will last without refrigeration.)

Let us know how things go!

Posted by
1756 posts

Supermarket online food deliveries are apparently booked up for quite some time. But supermarkets themselves are open though you may have to queue to get in.

As for non-food white goods etc then only suggestion I can give is online - try Argos, Currys, John Lewis etc.

Must be unbelievably stressful and disorientating. Good luck.

Posted by
3940 posts

The advice is to self isolate as soon as you get to the country, not take public transport etc! People are being told not to move house.

All the supermarkets have stopped taking orders from new customers as they are booked up for weeks. Local stores are mostly offering free local delivery. You should self isolate after a flight, rather than visit a supermarket. Many are short of the basics such as loo roll, detergent, eggs, bread and milk any way. Most areas are offering shopping assistance to those self isolating - I have a scheme in the village where I live in Kent and my mum has a similar thing near Manchester.

Good luck!

Posted by
6536 posts

In the U.S., most everyone I know are staying home except to go to the grocery store. Grocery stores are extremely short on bread, milk, eggs and toilet paper especially. Grocery stores are opening an hour early for senior citizens (like my wife.) I've been able to obtain what I needed in a driving rain storm early the other morning, as stores were virtually empty.
If we get too bored, we can always take a drive into the country, or go to the lake. Never heard of catching any coronavirus from a Crappie.
Life would be far less enjoyable at home if we didn't have satellite television and the internet/Wifi.
Good luck to those willing to sacrifice a little for the good of the masses. And to think we were supposed to be in Berlin this week. There's always next year.

Posted by
4153 posts

Good luck, Chris F, and thanks for all your helpful posts from Basel. Hopefully you'll resume posting when you have internet service and some food in the house. You'll become our go-to expert on Cornwall.

Posted by
2231 posts

Loo roll! I love it, this Forum has often been very helpful for learning key phrases in foreign languages. Thanks Jennifer. And good luck Chris. Andra’ Tutto Bene!

Posted by
1064 posts

Chris: be sure to keep writing everything down! This would make a great memoir. Sell the film rights when you're done! Your friend in World Lock-Down.

Posted by
570 posts

Chris F,
What an adventure, but years of reading your great advice tells me you’ll be just fine!

I’m sure you’ve already thought of this, but see if you can buy some supplies from your hotel. If bookings are down, they may be wiling to sell a few loo rolls, soap, and maybe some food items from their pantry.

Internet...if you’re keeping your Swiss phone plan for the time being, can you top up your data remotely? Don’t leave us stranded waiting for Part 2, we’ll worry!

Posted by
7153 posts

Chris gives excellent advice about all things Swiss. I also have family in Switzerland and we were there visiting when all of pandemic really started to be big. We were due to fly home last Sunday but our flight was cancelled and each time we booked another flight home (USA) we would receive txt messages int he middle of the night that the new flight was cancelled. This happened several times and so finally we just jumped on a flight 2 days earlier hoping that it would actually go...and it did. I haven't flown on such an empty flight in decades. My family of 3 were the only people in Economy Plus, with a few people scattered over economy and Premium. And Geneva airport wasn't allowing ANYONE inside unless you had a confirmed booking. All those high end watch and jewelry and clothing stores were all boarded up and not even a single box of chocolates to be had anywhere to take home. TOTALLY abnormal for Switzerland.

Posted by
1400 posts

Happy to hear you are finally at your new home. Good luck with settling in and getting essentials.

Posted by
227 posts

Wow! What an experience! Wishing you well as you get settled in your new home.

Posted by
669 posts

Chris F., you have been such a great resource to those of us who have reached out to you for assistance on all things Swiss. Thank you for sharing this with your RS "family". We wish you well, and eagerly await Part 2, and -hopefully a more joyful Part 3.
Stay healthy and safe travels!

Posted by
447 posts

Wow, moving stinks in the best of times and this certainly isn't it. Best of luck getting sorted. We look forward to hearing more.

Posted by
7109 posts

Chris, i echo other’s sentiments... you’re a valuable member of this forum and i enjoy and always learn from your good posts and info.
So sorry this all this is going on while you’re trying to move.
I hope and wish you all good things and the best of luck.

Posted by
11389 posts

Wow what an overwhelming time it must be for you !
I also would be tempted to either sent ahead or take some food : just tea/ coffee, sugar ,and some dried packets of rice and pasta dishes . Just to have to have food the first few days till you find your feet .

Posted by
3904 posts

Chris, I know the advice is to self isolate but that's quite difficult to do when you have a house devoid of any supplies!

My experience in Portsmouth is that the supermarkets are operating well albeit there are still shortages or complete absence of toilet rolls, bread, eggs, flour of every kind, tinned tomatoes and baked beans. Yesterday I visited my local Tesco, there were more staff than customers. It was very organised, trolleys were handed to you after the handles were sanitised, tape was everywhere to ensure minimum distances. Most chicken was gone but plenty of expensive steak, lamb and the fish stock was barely dented. Despite a minor panic last weekend when beer and cider was in short supply the shelves are back to their normal stock. Absolutely no shortage of fresh fruit and veg but barely any tinned or frozen! Bizarre mentality of some people. You'll struggle to find paracetamol or anti bacterial soap but plenty of normal soap and shower gel, both of which are just as effective.

As for white goods I've always found AO to offer competetive prices and good service, they're still selling online but will only undertake doorstop deliveries.

As for the internet, you have your phone and you can always use it as a mobile hotspot (Three tell me I can't but I still can).

Good luck, moving house is a headache at the best of times!

Posted by
2454 posts

Chris F thanks for giving us a glimpse of what this unique world situation is like for you. I too hope you’ll continue with Part 2 when you get moved in and continue to offer great advice on all the places that are familiar and dear to you.

Do you have family in your new area to gift you with a loo roll or two?

Posted by
6686 posts

Welcome back to your original home during this trying time. I hope you are able to get set up with less difficulty than anticipated. All the best.

Posted by
5307 posts

Chris — my goodness — thinking of you as you undertake this move in rather unique circumstances. Wishing you all the best.

Posted by
1403 posts

hey hey Chris F
wow what an ordeal. things will take a "short" while to get back in your groove. is cornwall your hometown and you retiring?
my friends spent a 3 days in port isaac and 5 days in st ives. one of their favorite and gorgeous places they fell in love with.
hoping you getting everything putting your new house together along with your grocery shopping done. hoping the shelves are fuller than ours here in the san francisco bay area.
waiting to here part 2 and part 3 of this adventure you are on.
aloha

Posted by
447 posts

Oh my, what a time to be moving. I have so enjoyed reading all your valuable information about traveling to Switzerland. (One of my favorite places in the world) but home is always home and you are moving back to a beautiful part of England. I do hope to visit my family in the UK this summer, but I am not optimistic. Keep us posted and I look forward to future tips on travel to Cornwall.

Margaret

Posted by
3904 posts

but home is always home and you are moving back to a beautiful part of England.

He's moving to Plymouth (last I heard), not quite so beautiful. It's on a par with Portsmouth and that's not a compliment!

Posted by
2585 posts

Chris, wishing you all the best. Hope it doesn’t take too long for you to be able to get the things you need.

Posted by
4501 posts

Chris,
I hope you’re doing well.
Hopefully you were able to get the essentials while you quarantine.

Wishing you the best!
I look forward to part 2 of your unique adventure during these tough times.

Posted by
609 posts

Wow - I can’t even imagine! I hope you have arrived and were able to get enough supplies to settle in for a bit. What a time for a transition! This could definitely be movie material. Wishing you the best from afar!

Posted by
4501 posts

How are you doing Chris?

I hope you have family, or friends, nearby who may be able to help you.

Posted by
669 posts

Chris, great to see you back online. How is the moving going in the midst of a world pandemic? Do you miss Switzerland?
Good luck!

Posted by
11152 posts

I do hope Chris is OK.

Honest question - several posts from our UK posters used the phrase "white goods." This is not a term I've heard before. From context, it seems to mean major appliances like washing machines and refrigerators. Do I have it right, or does it mean something else?

Posted by
3111 posts

white goods |ˈ(h)wīt ˌɡo͝odz|
pl.noun
large electrical goods used domestically such as refrigerators and washing machines, typically white in color. Compare with brown goods.

brown goods
pl.noun
television sets, audio equipment, and similar household appliances

Never heard either term used in the US.

Posted by
5235 posts

When I have heard "white goods" (or something similar) in the U.S. it was referring to what used to be sold at an annual "white sale" -- sheets and towels. (Even though by that time they were generally brightly colored rather than uniformly white.)

Posted by
7109 posts

I’ve never heard the term white sale or white goods here... A regional term maybe?

Posted by
16581 posts

It was used in the south, at least, back in the 1960s and 1970s--maybe later. I suspect it may just be old terminology rather than a regionalism.

Posted by
11152 posts

"White sale" meaning a sale on linens and towels (usually from a department store) was definitely used in Philadelphia and New York when I was younger, although now that I think of it, I haven't heard it in quite a while.

Posted by
7539 posts

I've never heard of white goods, but definitely white sales were/are(?) a thing. I've lived in California my entire life.

And I echo the hope that Chris is doing well and adjusting to his new life in England. When people go quiet these days it is natural to be concerned about them.

Posted by
784 posts

We still have white sales in my neck of the woods. ;-)

Posted by
6012 posts

All the big department stores in the upper Midwest (Chicago and Mpls for sure) had white sales, usually in January. Household linens. They were called white sales from back when all sheets and towels were white, like in the 30's and 40's.

Posted by
2585 posts

White Goods....large pieces of household equipment, such as refrigerators, washing machines and stoves.