2021 Europe: Pre-Departure

Map of entire trip showing stops

In about an hour we leave for SFO. I thought I was going to have to skip this traditional entry of my travel and just start with Departure tomorrow night, but managed to find a couple of quiet hours at the beginning of my vacation to work this in. I can’t say why exactly I appreciate this particular tradition, but I do.

While I managed to do some mostly-local travel during the pandemic (you can find the few trips I did in the last year under Travel/USA from my home page), this is the first European travel I’ve done since 2018. I had originally planned to go back in 2019 but decided to just stay in NYC for all of 16 days, a decision that I’m super happy with. But I’d been itching to go back across the Atlantic then already so I’m thrilled that I finally get to scratch that itch.

So much has changed since that last Europe trip: new house – from the outside anyway, with the exterior remodel now complete (also blogged about if you’re interested), new relationship, new job. And all of it moving forward in very exciting ways.

Ashish will of course be on this trip with me. Those of you who haven’t yet met him in person have met him on prior trips (Alaska, various stops in Northern California). And if you’re new here you’ll enjoy the energy he brings, I believe. Much more well-traveled than me (56 countries), he’s been to every place we’re going already and did all of the heavy lifting on the planning of this trip. And with the exception of lodging and travel through all of the destinations, very little of this trip has been planned. My life in particular has been so hectic the last 5 months I’m very excited to have 2 weeks of pretty much making-it-up-as-we-go. That by itself is rejuvenating to me.

This is our first international trip together, and the first time we’ve done 2 weeks anywhere. When we first starting talking about this trip – during a pandemic with so many unknown and/or changing-daily variables – we decided we wanted something low key, and a return to someplace rather than something new (for me at least). That decision chunked the endless possibilities that had been discussed (for the longest time this trip was going to be in South America!) because when we thought of what would be the most relaxing, Paris immediately came to mind for both of us.

Map of entire trip showing stops

But 2 weeks in Paris during a pandemic when we weren’t sure what would and would not be open seemed a little too laid back even for us, so we decided to add Switzerland to the mix. That was the country I’d planned on going to in 2019 before I scratched that idea all together, so it was the most logical next step for me.

Ash of course has been everywhere we’re going so he knew just what to do, mapped out as you see to your left just to give you the birds eye view.

We’ll spend 5 nights in Paris, then a train ride to Zermatt, point A.

Zermatt is most famous for home of the Matterhorn. We’ll spend 2 nights there.

St. Moritz is next, 2 nights there also. We get there on a train ride called the Glacier Express – through the Alps – which is reportedly one of the coolest train rides on the planet.

Interlaken after that where we’ll spend 3 nights and will meet up with a surprise guest to the blog so you’ll have to follow along to hear about that.

And finally, 2 nights in Zurich. I will fly home from there on September 11, Ash is staying for 2 more weeks. He has a friend joining him for the duration of his trip. Originally they were going to go to Macedonia but the State Department just issued a warning about that, so now they’re thinking Germany.

I managed to leave work yesterday around 4:30pm after starting at 7am and got everything done that I absolutely had to despite a day booked full of meetings, so left feeling very good about it all. As soon as I shut down that “yay, I’m on vacation” feeling started kicking in.

I went home and did the last bit of packing I needed to do – electronics and toiletries – and had a friend take me to the bus station.

Sacramento Greyhound station

I don’t think I’ve been on a Greyhound bus since high school, and I’ve never actually traveled by bus on purpose! It wasn’t that bad and the price was right. I needed to leave my car in Sacramento because I’m flying back there, but since we’re leaving from San Francisco this morning it made sense to come up last night. It was about 2.5 hours even with 3 stops in between so can’t really complain about that.

The trickiest part of planning this trip is staying on top of all of the different pandemic rules in place. At lunchtime yesterday, I frantically pulled a bunch of electronic documents together to send to France in order for them to verify my vaccination status and issue their own vaccine certificate. In addition to vaccines required everywhere, you also need a negative COVID test within 72 hours. Ash was able to do his test at Kaiser on Tuesday and got his result yesterday evening. I wasn’t able to get in until first thing Wednesday morning. They make no promises for travel testing other than it will be within 72 hours so I knew I was pushing it. When I hadn’t gotten a result by last night we decided not to risk it and used one of the tests Ash had gotten for us to use on our return flights.

Without going into a ton of detail, this home test is a product of Abbott, a well known name in medical devices so I felt good about that. All you need is your phone, a computer, and about 20 minutes total. You’re using video to connect with a proctor who can do all of the necessary verifications and instructions that make the test valid.

As a result of that process, I was able to get this result on my phone.

And of course, when I woke up this morning, I had the result from Kaiser. Less than 48 hours so no complaints about that for sure. I think I may still use the Abbott test to see if it’s accepted but I have a backup plan if for some reason it isn’t.

So that’s the plan. Pandemic travel will bring in a whole other new set of adventures and I’m looking forward to you joining us for that.

4 thoughts on “2021 Europe: Pre-Departure”

  1. Oh I loved Zermatt, we’ve been there both in winter and in summer and it was awesome both times. We took a train up to what seemed like a small village. We saw the Matterhorn one early more, you have to time it just right to see it since it’s so high, the clouds often cover it. Have a blast, you are going to two of my favorite places, Paris and Zermatt

  2. Ok my bags are packed. Oh wait a minute, I’m not going although it always feels like it. Ok my reading devices are charged. Let’s go!

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