More than 10,000 Road Scholar participants have gotten on the road again since we re-opened our global campus in July. To share what travelling during COVID is like, we spoke with Road Scholar Christine Cegelis from Palatine, Ill. who returned from our learning adventure The Best of Northern France: Paris and Normandy in early September. When Christine returned home she gave us this very encouraging feedback:
The trip to Normandy could not have been more perfect. After no travel for what seemed like forever, this was my first trip out of the country since November 2019. Road Scholar took all the precautions to make sure everyone was safe and healthy. September and October are low tourist months typically, but with Covid, there were even fewer than usual. I am already looking at what my next Road Scholar adventure will be for next year. I am so happy to be able to travel again, even with the restrictions and mask wearing.
We wanted to hear more about her experience, so we gave her a call!
Why was this a good learning adventure to take at this time? Are there perks to travelling now?One of the advantages to the trip was that a lot of it was outdoors. We had to wear masks a on the bus and in museums, but there was a lot of time we were walking around outside that masks were not required. Would I go again if I was told I’d have to wear a mask? Absolutely!
France really seems to have their act together in terms of foreign travel. If I could give the second benefit of this trip, it’s that I chose to go to France in September because I was told that was a low tourist time. But right now, it is empty! When I came back and told people I was in Versailles and there were maybe 3-4 people walking around, they couldn’t believe it! It was a great time to see the museums and go to popular historic sites because they weren’t crowded. It really was an opportunity of a lifetime that I didn’t even realize until I got there and back. I hate to say that I took advantage of that fact that many people are hesitant to go, but I did. Having no crowds ended up making the trip even more enjoyable!
Why did you choose to learn and travel with Road Scholar?Going with Road Scholar meant that I didn’t have to figure everything out. Road Scholar told me what I needed to do in order to travel to France. I had people sending me articles saying, “Did you know you need to do this and that?” I explained to them that Road Scholar is helping me navigate everything I need to do. .
Did it give you peace of mind to know that all participants were vaccinated?That was absolutely number one in my mind — I would not have considered travelling if everybody hadn’t been vaccinated. That was a priority for me, especially with the Delta variant at the time we ended up traveling. But everyone involved with our program was very careful. When we were on the bus, we were required to wear our masks. There was definitely a level of comfort to know that everyone was vaccinated.
What were some of the things that you needed to do to prepare for your journey to France?We needed a QR code to enter France, and that wasn’t difficult to obtain. We received the information from Road Scholar regarding what needed to happen. I submitted it on a Monday, I got it back on a Thursday, and that pass was good everywhere we went in France. It wasn’t a big hassle.
People who went through Heathrow also had to follow British Covid restrictions, but they were also given instructions on what they had to do. They needed to have a negative Covid test in the U.S. prior to getting on the plane and also needed to have a locator record to do contact tracing.
On the way back, we needed to have a test to come back into the U.S. Road Scholar had that all set up and the test came back in a half hour! So we were ready to come back to the U.S. and there was very low stress getting back in.
What were the highlights of the trip?We went to Giverny, Claude Monet’s garden and—oh my gosh that was so beautiful! Northern France is just an amazing place. Every city that we saw seemed to be more beautiful than the next. If anything, what it left you with was that you wish you could just stay there and just soak up more of that atmosphere. When we went to the Normandy beaches, we had a fascinating historian talk us through what happened. That was very memorable.
Did you travel solo or with someone?I traveled with my friend Diana who I met on my last trip to Paris. We kept in touch, and since both wanted to do this trip, we paired up. We had fun traveling together and roomed together. The great thing about Road Scholar trips is they typically have relatively small groups. You get to know your travel mates fairly well. The camaraderie makes it more enjoyable.
I’ve been divorced for many years and am still working. I travel a lot for my job by myself, so I’m not opposed to traveling alone and I’ve navigated a number of foreign and domestic cities for my job. But it’s a nice break to travel with other people who have similar interests and be able to share the experience. It works out well for me!
Where do you want to go next?Next September, I will celebrate my 70th birthday. I really wanted to splurge, and there is a cruise begins in Europe and ends in Morocco or Botswana. I’ve never been to Africa!
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