Traveling in a pandemic: France

After two years without having seen my family for pandemic reasons, I eventually heard that France was « green » for Norway, and Norway « green » for France, early July. Happiness, I thought! I could be here for my mother’s 60th birthday! Of course, by the time I booked the tickets, organized the trip and left (August 10-17) France had turned « red ». Which meant that to be able to go and come back, the Viking (who obviously tagged along) and I had to fill up a lot of papers, do some tests and go through quite a lot of stress to ensure we could actually go there and come back safely.

We did Bergen-Paris-Nantes for our flight to France, since my parents live in Bretagne

Going there was the easy part. Since we have just one dose of the vaccine and are therefore not fully vaccinated, we had to get tested in the 72 hours before the trip and fill up a « pledge on honor » that we were not sick nor had been in contact with a sick person before our trip. That’s the thing with France: if you’re « honorable », everyone is supposed to trust you, just like that! So we ended up giving those papers when registering our luggage, boarded, continued our trip until reaching Nantes where we were received with a lot of hugs by my parents and my grand-mother. Only my father and my sister knew about our arrival, so I let you imagine the emotional state of everyone at that time.

Here it says « Mandatory sanitary pass (for any complaint, please reach the Elysium palace)

In France, we couldn’t go anywhere because we didn’t have a valid « sanitary pass », which is a proof of you being fully vaccinated or having gone though an antigenic test (a quick test, you get the results between 15 and 75 minutes) within the past 72 hours. No restaurants, bars, museums, etc. So we favored walks in nature and picnics along the Breton coast, which was gorgeous and pretty hot as it was sunny all the time. We could also visit churches, and go to markets. The latter didn’t make any sense because it was super crowded. I’m not kidding, people were pushing you, there was no respect of social distancing, nothing except for the masks. It made me feel pretty anxious because in Norway I’m never facing such crowds. I had forgotten how many people there are in France and especially in the summer in touristic places. Now I can actually understand why there are always so many Covid cases in my home country! It also makes zero sense to me that we couldn’t go sit on the terrace of a restaurant or a bar, so outside, but it was okay to join a very dense crowd to buy local goods.

The open market of Sarzeau, a very popular holidays destination near where my parents live

We spent a few days in Morbihan, then headed to Oleron island on the west coast of France, where my parents had a rented a small house and us a guest room nearby. Planning for our return, I had called « Bio17 », a local official website giving information on where to get tested and how in the Charentes-Maritimes department. They recommended me to go to La Rochelle drive in PCR testing station on Sunday (we were traveling back on Tuesday, the results would arrive Monday night) and pay in advance as my husband is a foreigner and me not a current resident of France. It was 140 euros total, pretty rough but okay. We went there, did the test, and visited the city.

We also wanted to celebrate my mother’s birthday on Monday before coming home, so we asked a local pharmacy if we could do a quick test (antigenic) without appointment anywhere. After calling another place, we headed that way at the beginning of the afternoon and waited in line for an hour to get registered, then 20 more minutes to get tested. I realized that day that I actually didn’t need to pay for tests in France as I am, indeed, French. So thank you for people telling us wrong things by lack of understanding and information…

As you can see, the Viking was the only one respecting the one meter distance in the line to get registered for the test

It was cheaper and more efficient, as we got our results pretty quickly, but the organization itself lacks of common sense. Your register online while you’re in line (and there was almost no internet network) then have to finalize the registration inside the pharmacy. Then you’re sent outside for a second line to access the actual testing phase. All in all, it’s easier and less confusing in Norway! Once our negative results on our phones, we could access a restaurant for my mother’s celebration dinner, and that was pretty cool.

The next day, we had to fill up online the « Entry Norway » form gathering our identity and contact information, our living arrangement and where you had traveled in the past 14 days. At the airport in Nantes, we have been told that the PCR test we had taken was useless because « too old » as Norway only accepts tests taken in the 24 hours before the first leg of your trip. Of course, we didn’t know that antigenic tests were accepted, otherwise we wouldn’t have spent 140 euros and a long drive for my parents to be sure to have everything in order… We decided we were not upset about this because we did have indeed a more recent test, so they let us leave! The trip itself got a bit more complicated because of problems with our plane to leave from Nantes to Paris, but it ended up being okay for our transfer to Amsterdam.

Ready to go!

Going through Amsterdam to reach Bergen was also another problem, as the Netherlands are « dark red » and Norway entry rules stipulate that a layover in a dark red place is considered a visit. From a « red » country like France, we could just get tested at the airport then self-quarantine proven we lived in a place just for ourselves for three days before getting another test and, if negative, go back to our normal lives. For a « dark red » place, it would have been three days at a quarantine hotel (500 NOK/50 euros per person per night) then another test and self-quarantine at home seven more days.

But eventually our layover didn’t matter! We showed our passports, our latest test, the QR code from our registration to « Entry Norway » and the paper proving we had received a first dose of the vaccine. Then our security person asked us « do you know what you have to do now? », to which we replied what I described earlier about the quarantine of three days. We had the feeling of a surprise exam, and we apparently passed! We had to take another quick test, waited patiently for the results, then proceeded to get back home for our isolation.

All in all, it was a bit easier than we thought it would be to travel during a global pandemic, and if respecting the rules, remaining careful and well informed, there is no problem for you to spend a nice time despite the « will we make it? » stress. This part is making us think twice about traveling again soon, and we will wait for a few more months to go on another adventure!

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