AS A traveller, beach bum and lifelong adventure-seeker, I should be excited about the idea of travelling this summer but, if I’m honest, I’m still feeling a little unsure.
For me, sunbathing in a Perspex box, wearing a mask around the Prado or having lunch next to a giant teddy bear in a Parisian restaurant will just highlight how much the world has changed since Covid-19 took hold. And even though 33 European countries have now reopened their borders (Covid flare-ups not withstanding), how much fun will it really be?
For months the nation (and the world) has been on high alert, trying to do the right thing in avoiding catching or spreading the virus. So boy, do we all need a holiday. My feet are so itchy I would walk across barbed wire for a rum punch in a Mediterranean beach bar and feel the warm sand between my toes. But I equate travelling with freedom — OK, that’s the freedom to enjoy long, lazy rosé-fuelled lunches in charming Provençal bistros, to splash around in the foamy surf or to read the latest bonkbuster with my legs dangling in the hotel pool — so my main fear is that my freedom to do all of this will be curtailed.
However, on further consideration I’ve found that there are positives about this new travel normal. As someone who abhors queuing, I would quite happily wear several masks and bathe in anti-bac gel in order to go on Nemesis five times in a row in a crowd-free theme park. I’d even brave one of the busiest museums on Earth.
Last summer, the Louvre welcomed around 26,000 people through its doors every single day. Now in these crazy Covid times, the museum only allows in 500 visitors every half hour to enable everyone to be socially distanced. Tickets and time slots must be pre-booked and masks must be worn inside but, heck, it’s a very small price to pay for having the world’s most popular museum pretty much to yourself.
But it’s not just museums and theme parks that are becoming more palatable for the crowd-adverse. Cafés, bars and restaurants have all had to be more creative when it comes to opening safely. And creative they have been. A South Carolina restaurant used blow-up dolls to fill empty tables to enable social distancing, a Michelin-starred spot in Washington DC went more upmarket with mannequins dressed in 1940s clobber, while in Amsterdam they’ve built private greenhouses to dine in.
So with more space and increased hygiene from beach bars to hotel buffets, it can only be a good thing; while this Brave New World of the summer holiday might look a little different, it ain’t all bad. And anyway, why wouldn’t I want a romantic dinner with a giant teddy bear in Paris? I imagine the conversation will be furry enlightening…