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France and Covid report

Just returned from a truncated Rick Steves trip: Loire and the South of France
* First half of our trip went as planned - meet up in Chartres
- Trying to take the Metro on Sunday morning- the stations were all closed, so it was much shlepping past the cemetery and other streets to get to the main Montparnasse train station
- Chartres is lovely; fortunate to have a tour with the famous Malcolm Miller who explained how to "read" the stories in the stained glass of the cathedral
- We visited a wine cave (on a free afternoon), which I had read about. So very interesting, and free wine tasting to boot! Highly recommend!

  • Leonardo's home in Amboise

    • Having finished Isaakson's book, I was really keen to see this
    • Many groups of schoolchildren - warning - possibly source of Covid 2 days' hence
  • Chateaux and gardens (Clemenceaux, Villandry) - much history, the gardens are wonderful!

  • Dordogne River

    • It is -work- to canoe and you can't see much of the castes from the water
    • My favorite memory is of watching the iridescent moths alight on the white river blossoms
  • Sarlat

    • Market day (Saturday) is mobbed. Great deals all around - tempting but if you're traveling light, its limited
    • Foie gras - tried it (against my better judgement); I don't need to try it any more
    • Walnuts - love walnut bread!
  • Covid ensues

    • After about 6 days of the tour, Jim came down with a fever and felt all out of energy
    • An at-home Covid test proved it
    • We told our guide who quite immediately told us we were off the tour
  • Hotel stay

    • Travel insurance (we had TravelGuard, cancel for any reason policy) was no help, which was unexpected. They said since Jim had Covid they were unable to book anything for us, and "why don't you look up Airbnb?"
    • We were fortunate that the hotel in Sarlat had a cancellation, so we stayed. It was a nice room with comfy beds and a terrace. Note: we continued to stay in the same room (with 2 twin beds), and I never came down with it
  • Groceries

    • Available in town. I continued to test every other day - always negative
  • Other distractions

    • PokemonGo is still a thing, and still a thing in France. Kept me busy capturing pokemon in the wild on my trips to the store, and to get meals. Also my Merlin bird app - caught many sound recordings for my Ebird portfolio, literally dozens
    • A few art galleries in Sarlat, and numerous windy back alleys in town - quite scenic
  • Transportation changes

    • Indeed once you make a train reservation, you may or may not be able to change or get a refund
    • Some (Ouigo) you can only change the date of travel, and if they are booked on the day you want, there is no recourse
    • We ended up keeping one leg of our train journey back to CDG/Paris - and had to work other local travel with that (train to Bordeaux; moving our flight out by one day to allow for Covid tests); another night at a Paris airport hotel
  • CDG - Charles deGaulle airport

    • 3 hours - yes plan on this!! Our first flight was cancelled, so we had enough time to walk the length from Terminal 2B to 2G and still catch our first flight
    • T2G (by shuttle) is so cute- indoor fountain and funky furniture. Food stands open at 6am
    • Negative test home - stressful but quick - both tested negative!
    • Lufthansa app - does not work the same way each time you use it! They want documents (vax card, negative test result) uploaded digitally. My vax card (showing 2 shots and 2 boosters) for some reason didn't have a bar code, so they app rejected it. We had to go to the airport and talk with a ticket agent to resolve.
  • In summary

    • I'm honestly not sure I'd take another RS tour. We've had our own trips (complete freedom!) and all-inclusive (Galapagos Islands). I'm just not sure (just me - and I'm more of a loner) this economical trip is something I want to do again.
Posted by
2574 posts

Wow. As I’m re-thinking a booked tour (another company) in the fall this resonates. How many days did you quarantine in Sarlat? Did your husband require medical care? Was RSE helpful once you were off the tour? How did it go with the airline? Did you have to re-book flights? Any word on your other tour mates regarding COVID?

Posted by
1851 posts

Hmmm. We have always purchased Travel Guard insurance for our trips. One of the benefits states “hotel rebooking assistance”. And they didn’t help you with this? This is concerning. The last time we ran into a travel snafu, TG arranged for another hotel for us and contacted the hotel we were supposed to be staying at that we wouldn’t make our first night’s stay. TG a covered the taxi fare to and from the newly booked hotel and covered the cost of the hotel room that we didn’t get to enjoy.

Posted by
31 posts

@Alan - we were in Sarlat for 2 days, then booked an additional 8 days there. I believe the recommendations were 5 days stay isolated, then depending on energy level venture out. Jim’s energy was the constraint, but after about 7 days he had a bit more energy to go on walking trips. The last few nights we went to a nearby restaurant with an outdoor terrace.

Thankfully after 3 days his fever broke. Even at that he woke up really hot in the night for a few days after that. Did not need medical care. I had a supply of Tylenol and a digital thermometer (good to bring!!)

RS had some advice particularly about getting a Recovery letter if we weren’t able to reach his doctor. The +9 hour time difference meant for a lag in communication. No idea if other tour members came down with it. It was a bit telling when our tour guide said the previous trip ended up with someone testing positive when they got to Sarlat, so this wasn’t the first experience for him.

We did have to rebook the return flight out 1 day. We were a bit anxious about my day-before flight Covid test (if positive, we would’ve had to stay an additional 10 days), but that didn’t happen. Home now :)

Posted by
31 posts

@ Mary I think due to a busy season they weren’t (Travel Guard) able to find anything? Also with Covid, it was pretty frustrating their lack of attention. But, we intend to file a claim to cover our additional expenses. So we shall see.

Note that RS did issue a prompt refund, had a check waiting for us by the time we got home!

Posted by
1781 posts

“RS had some advice particularly about getting a Recovery letter if we weren’t able to reach his doctor”

Hi Courtney, hope your husband is feeling better. Were you able to get a recovery letter without seeing a doctor? How does that work? Thanks!

Posted by
31 posts

@Donna Yes, Jim has a primary care doc here in WA State, so he was able to connect and get a recovery letter. It was a great letter as it says that he was feeling better but might still test positive. I got the feeling she had written this type of letter before.

Due to delays in communicating, and some initial trouble in downloading the letter, we were scoping out the electronic options - the simplest seemed to be one that cost 75 euro, but there are several online tele-doc options out there in Europe.

Posted by
201 posts

Thank you so much for sharing all of this! Glad you are both okay! I am on the same tour, but starting in late September. Would be lying if I said I wasn't anxious about all of this, but also very excited about the trip. Such a mixed bag of emotions right now!

Posted by
31 posts

@Jill - it’s a great place and making a small attempt to speak French helps a lot. I had to keep my post to the character-count limit, so feel free to message me if you have questions

Posted by
201 posts

I'm thankful I can finally use the four years of French I learned back in middle and high school, and I've been refreshing on the Duolingo app. My accent is terrible, but I can get by pretty well. 😉

Also learned through one of the RS podcasts that saying "bonjour" in every situation is critical.

Posted by
31 posts

@Jill my accent is awful but French speakers appreciate the effort. It’s fellow anglos that tend to pick up on that, but they are usually friendly