Just writing a little more about last week’s trip to France….The less fun part!
I had booked our activities through a travel agency, and so much of the trip was straightforward: a car and guide show up at the hotel and the guide shows you around whatever attraction you are visiting. But the last two days were a little more complicated.
I sometimes get anxious about logistics, and often things are easier than I think they will be. And sometimes they are harder.
On Wednesday we were going to take a bus to Disneyland Paris. (In retrospect I should have booked a van from the hotel straight to the park, but I guess everything is clear in retrospect…) We needed to check in with the tour operator at 8:40 a.m. for the 9:00 a.m. bus. We needed to get ourselves to the bus stop, which was a few miles from the hotel. An obvious idea would be a cab, so then I was thinking about where I would get a cab, but I learned that many cabs will only take 3 people. I had four total, three of whom were kids who I did not want to send in a separate vehicle from me, so I was musing wouldn’t it be great if there were an app where you could summon an appropriately sized vehicle to take you to a destination…and then I realized I had re-invented Uber.
So I was all excited that I had solved that problem, and I dutifully summoned an Uber van on that rainy Wednesday morning only to have…no takers. The app ran and ran and I was running out of time. So I canceled and called an Uber X and asked the hotel doorman to please talk with the Uber driver who did not want to take 4 people in his car. He did finally agree (pour les enfants!) and so we made it.
(My other plan had been to call a second Uber after summoning the first one but, again, I was quite wary of sending the kids without me.)
But the transportation was easier than the Covid test ordeal. I confess that I was pondering these logistics the whole time we were in Paris. I knew we needed to take an antigen test within a day of the return flight (anyone coming to the US has to do this). Theoretically it should have been easy, as almost every pharmacy in France advertises their 15-minute test results. In countries with less testing infrastructure, hotels that cater to American tourists often have a testing option there (which is what we did in Turks and Caicos last summer) but France is well-supplied. Most people would do the Covid tests the day before (Wednesday for a Thursday flight) but… this happened to be our scheduled Disneyland Paris day.
In retrospect, I wish these had been scheduled in a different order — maybe the Louvre on Wednesday, and Disney on Monday — but I didn’t think of this until the agency had booked everything. The tour agency had suggested getting a test at a pharmacy near the Disney bus stop, but the pharmacy didn’t open until 8:30 a.m., and with the bus check in at 8:40 this seemed like it might not work (and given the Uber issue it really wouldn’t have). Pharmacies tend to close at 8 p.m., and while I had hoped we would get back at 7:30 p.m. from Disney and could do it then, we made a strange detour back to the park (I think someone missed the bus? Maybe?) and then got to the bus stop at 8 p.m.
So we had to do the test the morning of departure, which was really not ideal. I got the kids up to make it to a pharmacy near our hotel right when it opened at 8:30. Entering all the information on French forms online four times was fun (new learning: I live in the États-Unis, which I knew, but in a drop down menu, the e with an accent often comes at the end of the alphabet, and not with the “E” section…kind of hard to find!) We got the tests done and they said I would be emailed the results in 15 minutes.
We went to breakfast, and 15 minutes came, and went, and 30 minutes, and 45 minutes…
At this point I was deep into my daily 30-minute freak out. Our plane was leaving in a few hours! I knew I had the information correct on the forms because I got an initial email that I had registered. So I left the kids in the hotel room and went back to the pharmacy to investigate. The tech who had done the tests (and who didn’t speak much English — not that she should be expected to! — but I’m just mentioning this to explain why the whole experience was more complicated) conveyed to me, through a random lady shopping in the pharmacy who agreed to help translate, that the pharmacy receptionist hadn’t come to work until 9:45, and hence the tests hadn’t been put in yet.
So much for results in 15 minutes. But her colleague had just shown up! So that was good — I did get the results within 10 minutes then. But, sadly, though I could see we were all negative in the test results section, I kept getting one of those “error” and “forbidden” codes when I clicked on the link to get the digital certificates. Trying to enter a screen shot of the results page in the VeriFly app resulted in the app not being able to read the results. I really needed a clear QR code. (I imagine I could have shown my phone to someone at the airport and checked in that way but that would have meant an entirely separate wait there, and the uncertainty of whether our results were in the right form…).
So…picture me asking s’il vous plait if the pharmacy could print my results. I don’t believe they were thrilled about this, and there was a mix-up when they re-entered the children’s birthdates meaning we needed to do some reprinting, but half an hour later, I had four printed EU digital test certificates with lovely and clear QR codes that the VeriFly app just gobbled up. I got back to the room just in time to load up the suitcases into the car for the airport.
Fun morning! Travel in the Covid era has this added uncertainty that can ratchet up the anxiety a lot. But as often happens, now that I have leapt through that particular hoop, my trip becomes rosier in retrospect. I forget that in my jet-lagged state I would be up at 2 a.m. worrying about how to make a within-1-day Covid test happen. And hey, we made it home. All good in the end.
Photo: Another picture of Versailles….