0682-Corona virus & Planning your holiday

Where to go in France – the safest regions and places to avoid now you can travel quarantine-free

Collioure

Since the June 2 reopening of bars, restaurants and hotels, France has been galloping back to normal. The pandemic is said to be under control. Almost everything you want is open again. Okay, a few restrictions remain. No gatherings of more than 10 people. Masks should be worn in shops and on public transport, tables must be well-spaced and there’s enough hydroalcoholic gel strategically placed in the public domain to flood the country three feet deep. That said, city centres and seaside resorts truly are getting their mojo back. France has been included the long-awaited list of countries that English residents can visit this summer. Here are five regions where the incidences of the virus are, as we speak, among the very lowest in France – perhaps because they’re mainly off-centre – and where I guarantee you a good time.


St Jean-Pied-de-Port

1. French Basque Country
No surprise that coronavirus didn’t make much headway in Basque country; not much has since the stone age. The Romans found it hard going in these Pyrenean parts, as did follow-up barbarians and Charlemagne. And, these days, the Basque identity still lies strong upon the land. Picture powerful character rooted in sky-busting mountains and a muscular coast rocking with Atlantic rollers. The whole is punctuated by substantial villages of white houses trimmed with oxblood-red woodwork, the bases for everything Basques have ever done, farming and contraband through fishing and sending sons off to America. My choice for the seaside would be Guéthary (once Madonna’s choice, too) or St Jean-de-Luz, with its storybook bay. Inland? St Jean-Pied-de-Port where mountain folk gather for the Monday market and you’d better not bet on the pelota games or you’ll be wiped out.


Collioure

2. Roussillon
Perpignan is best known internationally for Salvador Dali’s claim that the town’s railway station is the centre of the universe. Art aside, Dali was a chump. The station is not the centre of the universe. It’s not even the centre of Perpignan. It’s in a desolate zone to the north of centre. Enough of that. We go to Perpignan for fierce sun, temperament and festivity, for both codes of rugby and all sorts of wine. In the lee of the great 13th-century palace of the Kings of Mallorca (long story), the city is a permanently simmering sunshine event, easing us into French Catalonia (aka Roussillon) with a lot more panache now than it had 15 years ago. Further south, the flat coast sprouts rocks and coves as it meets the final plunges of the Pyrenees. Seaside resorts – Collioure, Banyuls – charm all but the charmless. Behind, vertical vineyards herald real mountains for climbing, riding, rafting, canyoning or trekking up to the St Martin-de-Canigou monastery. Back in Collioure, we eat anchovies. They are the local speciality. Best anchovy recipe ever, from anchovy-filleter Ghislaine: toast a slice of country bread, grate on garlic, add a few rounds of tomato and olive oil, lay anchovies on top. Fabulous.


Figeac

3. Lot
I’ve called Figeac (population: 10,000) “the finest small town in France” so often that the phrase writes itself. It’s about time someone noticed. The medieval and Renaissance structure is so well-preserved that it would be readily recognised by the wandering monks and merchants who, for centuries, have been dropping down from the surrounding limestone plateaux to the banks of the Célé. I generally walk mesmerised through the structures of France’s past, spotting the birth-place of Hollywood’s Latin lover Chares Boyer and paying respects at the museum of Jean-François Champollion. He was the local lad who cracked Egyptian hieroglyphics in 1822. Then I romp out of time down the Célé valley to the Pech-Merle cave. Its 29,000-year-old paintings surge from the walls as if seeking release. Back up the Lot valley St Cirq-Lapopie drapes over rocks to impose a sense of occasion. Post-war, writer and founder of surrealism, André Breton showed up. “I ceased to wish myself elsewhere,” he said, with the pomposity you’d expect from an anarcho-surrealist. And we haven’t even mentioned Conques with its weird, stolen monastic treasure (another long story) or Rocamadour, where the abbey, seven chapels and an entire village are clamped to the cliff face. You’ll be awestruck. Everyone is.


Ouessant

4. Finistère
From clear turquoise waters and white sandy beaches surrounded by pine trees, to dramatic rocky cliffs swept by the sea or charming pink granite coves, the Brittany coast is a place of wonders. If that’s not incentive enough, then let me tell you that Roscoff is a grand, granite little port once prosperous with freebooting wealth, now base to more crèperies than anyone can count. Go for Ty Saozon on Rue Gambetta. Then curve round the rugged, ragged coast, via the Pays-des-Abers to Le Conquet and a ferry to the island of Ouessant. The wind-lashed, treeless isle was the domain of women, the men being away at sea, often for years. Whence the local saying: “Take any husband you can get; there’ll not be enough to go round.” Inland, the desolate Monts-d’Arrée swirl with Breton myths. And all that’s just north Finistère. There’s still the slightly softer south to go at.


Angles-sur-Anglin

5. Vienne
This inland, western county is for the mature of outlook. People like me. We avoid spas, anywhere with purple lighting and anything termed “to die for”. We prefer gentle landscapes, châteaux, long lunches, cave paintings and quite a lot of wine – favouring, as it does, the calm of continuity rather than the clamour of the contemporary. So we’re very happy in Poitiers whose stint as home base to Eleanor of Aquitaine was sufficient to supply a framework of outstanding buildings. These include the cathedral, whose astonishingly worked façade is alive with statuary and reliefs including – a first for me – Jesus being given a bath by midwives with their sleeves rolled up. Now we head east, through a spectral gauze filtering out noise and vulgarity, to the Anglin and Gartempe valleys. Angles-sur-Anglin, as steep as it is comely, wriggles below a château crumbled to perfection. The abbey church at St Savin has 50 of the world’s greatest OT Romanesque frescos. Interestingly, Eve sports a beard, following misguided 19th-century restoration. Bucolic tranquillity persists, as if this were 1957 and you were driving a Morris Minor. It leads through villages and small towns – Montmorillon, Chauvigny – before we swing back to Poitiers, for the 21st-century blast of Futuroscope theme park, which leaves even mature folk laughing.

0678-Corona virus

Mayors want mandatory quarantine after holidays

Mayors want the opportunity to mandate people to quarantine for 14 days if they have been on vacation in contaminated areas. They have asked the cabinet to take action in the short term. “After all, it is now up for discussion,” said the Mayor of Nijmegen, Hubert Bruls, who is also chairman of the Security Council. “We want to be able to impose it if necessary.” Bruls spoke to Minister Ferd Grapperhaus (Justice) on Friday about the increasing number of people who test positive for corona. The outcome of this consultation is, among other things, that the Cabinet will ask the Outbreak Management Team (OMT) for new advice on the usefulness of mouth masks. Mayors are given the space to make local masks mandatory. “But the Security Region has also asked the cabinet to oblige tourists who have been in areas where the virus flares up again to go into quarantine for two weeks. That is now only recommended, people can escape it.”

Code orange
But if the infection rates continue to rise, such a mandatory quarantine may be an option to do something about it. These are people who have been on holiday in areas that have the code orange, areas that are not recommended by the government to go there. While the mayors Ahmed Aboutaleb of Rotterdam and Femke Halsema of Amsterdam argue for a mouth mask obligation, Grapperhaus and Bruls do not see anything to introduce that nationwide. Bruls: ,, The situation is different per region. In Gelderland-Zuid, for example, you only speak of a single contamination, so we do not need to take extra measures for the time being.”

Family parties
His colleague in Arnhem, Ahmed Marcouch, announced on Friday that there will be stricter supervision of the rules against the spread of corona in the catering industry because the rules are too often violated there. Bruls is more concerned about family parties: “We see that the most important thing in the family sphere, at family parties.” “Extra information should again point people to compliance with the corona regulations. He finds virologist Marion Koopmans by his side. The professor of virology at Erasmus MC in Rotterdam, who advises the cabinet and the World Health Organization as a member of the Outbreak Management Team, argues in favor of postponing parties when they cannot go outdoors and keeping them at bay.

0674-Corona virus

Ahmed Marcouch, Lord Mayor of Arnheim, appeals to Moroccans: “Don’t go to Morocco this summer.”

The reports seem favorable, travel to Morocco will be possible again from 15 July. Yet there is the call from Ahmed Marcouch, the mayor of Arnheim: “Don’t go back to Morocco this year.” “I usually like to go there. My parents are buried there, I have the necessary family living there. But still: “I’ll skip a year,” said the mayor. “The risks are too great because of the corona virus. Now it seems safe, but that it is possible again, is more motivated from economic interest. In Morocco they like to see the hard Dutch currency come. They desperately need it.”

“Government dealt very inhumanly with people who were detained”
But what if there is another lockdown? “In recent months, the Moroccan government has dealt very inhumanly with people who were trapped in Morocco and could not go home,” said Marcouch. “A donkey does not hit the same stone twice.” Marcouch understands that the temptation to go to Morocco is great. Reports appear in the Moroccan media that borders are opening. And that Moroccans with a residence abroad and foreigners who are currently in Morocco can leave the country. ,,But until recently there was no talk with the Moroccan government.” Minister Blok (Foreign Affairs) has moved heaven and earth to bring people back to the Netherlands. Then sick, old people from the Nador region were on a bus to Casablanca for a thousand kilometers to take the plane. Little by little.”

“Do not go to Morocco under these circumstances”
Faiza Mhiaui from Tiel spent three months trying to bring her 63-year-old father back to the Netherlands. “He was to Morocco for my grandfather’s funeral. Carried medicines for his COPD and diabetes for a week. But two days before he would come back, things were locked there”, says Mhiaiu. “We tried everything. Nothing helped. I am already happy that my father is back. But no, I really would under these circumstances don’t go to Morocco.”

Temperatuurscheck op vliegveld Casablanca.

Not being able to say goodbye to a deceased mother
Despite all warnings in two weeks from now, Latifa from Zeist will go to Morocco. In the past few weeks she has experienced how stubborn Morocco was. “My mother died there on July 2. She had been ill since late May. We tried everything to get there”, she says. “But I’ve really been waiting for the opportunity to go anyway. In the end we were late. A goodbye to my mother has already been taken from me and we still want to have some kind of ceremony, to arrange things.” Whether she will return to Morocco afterwards? “It has been so inhumane. I don’t know if I will go to Morocco in the coming years. We are now guaranteed to leave again. But it already begins that only two Moroccan airlines may be flown. And what is the promise worth in the end?”

0611-Corona virus

Over the period from my parent’s marriage, 03 August 1944 up till today I have a lot of pictures and videos. Especially my cruise adventures to Norway (2009), Greenland and Iceland (2010), worldcruise (2012), Southampton – Singapore (2014), worldcruise (2016) and finally France and Spain (2017) give thousands items to be indexed. Then there are our holidays to Mexico, Argentine, France, Spain and Italy over the past twenty years.
I have a new, self sorting key to index the pictures/videos: YYYYMMDDHHMMXX_CITY, where the YYYY stands for the year, MM for the month, DD for the day, HH for the hour (24h system), MM for the minute, XX for the 2 letter webcode of the country and _CITY for the location where the item was taken. For cruises applies, that YYYYMMDDHHMMCruising indicates the year, month, day, hour, minute the ship was cruising in open sea.

13,772  items have to be indexed (76%)
04,421  items are indexed up till 22 March 06pm (24%)
——- +
18,193  total collection (100%)