©2019 by Jelle.

Back in Corona-ridden Europe

26/3/2020

The world is all about one thing now; the coronavirus. Before everything escalated on a global scale, I read some news articles about the rising number of infections in China and the first cases in Italy. I talked about this with my father but we didn’t realize the seriousness of it all. I didn’t have a clue that everything would escalate this quickly and that the impact would be this big.

 

Inevitably, the corona factor also has an impact on my personal plans of traveling in Europe, I wil talk about this later. I can imagine that you get tired of all the corona news, so let me just quickly look back at the relatively carefree pre-corona period. I’ll start with the remaining days that my father and I had in Ushuaia.

 

On the second day, they delivered the bicycle box (which we sent from Rio Grande) straight to our front door

 

We had to switch apartments, that’s when we cycled past the letters of Ushuaia to take a picture to immortalize our presence

The port of Ushuaia is frequently visited by huge cruise ships that go to Antarctica

 

Picture taken from the beautiful road that led to the Ushuaia's ski slope

 

i've been busy for two days to finalize those last two blogs

 

After a couple of days in Ushuaia, it was time to say goodbye to my father and separate from each other. My flight departed two days earlier than my father’s, so I kind of left him behind in Ushuaia. This was a hard moment for me. After living together like Siamese twins for three months, we were suddenly on our own again. I had to wait for a day and a half in Buenos Aires to take my connecting flight to Spain.

 

The difference between my father’s flight from Buenos Aires and my own was only four hours, so we had just missed each other. It was funny to think that my father was four hours of flight time behind me. After a long flight, I landed at 05:30 AM in Barcelona, my father 09:30 AM in Amsterdam. I had to wait like 6 more hours to get onto my third and final flight to Sevilla.

 

The bicycle box was damaged, but the bike was still intact. I went to a quiet corner of the baggage reclaim hall to put my bike back together. I quickly took a picture before walking through the slide doors to enter te real world again.

 

Irony

 

 

Back in Europe!

 

What a world of differences in comparison with Argentina, Chile or South-America in general. A couple of things that I hadn’t seen for a long time:

  1. Underground cabling! No this mess of electricity posts or cables all over the place

  2. Bicycle paths! I believe that Sevilla has more bicycle paths than all of South-America combined

  3. Trains! In fact, some bike paths even have tunnels or bridges to circumvent the train tracks

  4. Futuristic segways with nonchalant looking people wearing sunglasses, wireless earbuds and a cup of coffee in their hand

The day after my arrival, my sister would fly from Amsterdam to Sevilla to visit me. There was still no sign of total lockdown. I went to the airport to pick her up, of course. It was a strange idea that we hadn’t seen each other for a year and a half, I found that hard to imagine. It immediately felt familiarly to be with Kim again, as if we’d seen each other one week before.

 

We have had an amazing (and sunny) week in Seville, in which we have lived like Burgundians in an unrestricted  and carefree environment. We’ve enjoyed some nice tapas and beer on many terraces, enjoying the sunlight that Kim had missed during the never ending winter in the Netherlands. We have vivisted all the markets, city parks and historical places in a short period of time. Oh and the cat of Kim gave birth to five kittens, we could follow that live via a video call!

 

Reunited!

 

 

A bridge with a bike path…

You’ll have to learn it on an old bicycle (a Dutch saying)

 

Typical narrow streets of Seville

 

'The golden tower', where the Spain kept their stolen gold and silver that they shipped from America

 

 

 

The Queen, looking down at the backyard of her Royal Palace

 

In times where maintaining the hedge seemed relevant

 

Delicious meals

 

Playing Monopoly in a park

 

Watching Kim's cat giving birth was pretty special, haha

 

We checked out all markets

 

View on Seville's historic center from the cathedral

 

Kim flew back to the Netherlands on Friday the 13th of March. This was also the last day in Spain with a normal public life. We visited the cathedral with a stunning view of Seville’s historical centre, it was closed on the next day because of the coronavirus. It looked like the Spaniards were rapidly becoming aware of the seriousness of this virus, it was increasingly normal to see someone walking around with a mask. In hindsight, it was good that Kim flew back on this Friday, because it would have been harder to get back a couple of days later.

 

After I walked with Kim to the airport shuttle bus, it was time to say goodbye already. This time only for a couple of months, though. We have had a great week together. Two days later, my friend Tom from the Netherlands would arrive in Seville with his bicycle. When he visited me in Colombia last year (together with his sister), the idea was born to cycle together. He’s a man of his word, so he invested a lot of time and money in the preparation of a bicycle journey together. The whole corona situation was developing rapidly and we weren’t sure that he was able to even arrive in Seville. Many flights were cancelled. In the meantime, the Spanish government declared a national state of emergency that would last for 15 days, in which it is strictly prohibited to leave your house. You can only leave your house to get groceries, visit the pharmacy or to go to the hospital.

 

Tom’s flight was not cancelled, miraculously. Officially, I wasn’t allowed to leave the house on the day that Tom arrived in Seville, but I didn’t really have a choice since I had the tools to put his bicycle back together. Seville was a bustling city on the sunny Sunday where Kim arrived, and had turned into a warzone on the following Sunday when Tom arrived. I felt like a criminal when I was cycling through the pitch dark and deserted streets towards the airport.

 

Tom quickly got through the airport processes, since only a handful of passengers arrived that evening. His flight was delayed by 90 minutes, because Spain had closed parts of its airspace, but he managed to arrive. Another special reunion! I had seen Tom more recently than 99% of my friends and family. We took the bicycle box to the parking garage and quickly put the bike back together before cycling back through those deserted streets.

 

Ready for quarantine

 

We were staying in a little room in an apartment building. We were thinking about cycling a couple of days later, but were increasingly aware that this would be impossible because of the corona situation.

 

The authorities were patrolling the streets to check whether you were on the street with a legitimate reason. When Tom and I were returning from the supermarket, we were stopped by the police and they told us we couldn’t walk together. Not having freedom of movement was quite hard for me after being on the move all the time so this whole situation was getting on my nerves quite quickly. I wouldn’t stand being stuck for at least 2 weeks in this room.

 

We were looking for a solution without going home and we’ve found one for now luckily. Tom’s uncle and aunt have a vacation home in Catalonia (north of Spain) where no guests can arrive at the moment. It was empty and we were allowed to stay there for the time being, which is extremely nice of them of course. We wouldn’t have enough time to cycle home from Seville if we would leave from here with a 2 week delay, so starting from Catalonia would be a good solution for that, too.

 

Anyway, we had to find a way to get there in the first place. With a little bit of effort, we managed to get two train tickets from Seville to Barcelona. This journey took 12 hours and we had the feeling that they were running the train just for us, there were almost no passengers at all. We could park our bicycles in the train compartment that is normally used as cafetaria. With a good book and some Netflix, the journey went pretty fast. From Barcelona, we took another train to Sils, the village close to the golf resort where the vacation home is located. The golf resort looked deserted, the hotels and golf facilities were all closed, and like VIPs we were escorted to the house where we would stay in quarantine.

 

On our way to Barcelona

 

Our bicycles were parked in the compartment that they normally use as a cafe

 

Train número dos. The sun had called it a day in the meantime

 

The house is as beautiful as it is gigantic. It has four bedrooms, four bathrooms, a playing room and a spacious living room and kitchen. Everything looks very stylish and chique. In the backyard, there are some deck chairs and a big swimming pool. I couldn’t believe my eyes. If you have to stay in quarantine anyway, then this place is not the worst to be at…. We owe a lot to Tom’s uncle and aunt….

 

View on the swimming pool from the balcony

 

View from the swimming pool on the golf course in the backyard

 

So here we are right now, waiting for things to get better and waiting to be able to move on. We can also use the mountain bikes that are stored here so we even have a legitimate reason to leave the house and get some exercise on our way to the village to do groceries. We just heard that the emergency state is extended by another 15 days, bad news! I didn’t think it was possible for the Spanish government to ‘lock-up’ the whole population for more than 15 days, but they just did. Spanish flights are not allowed to arrive in the Netherlands anymore and the border with France is closed, so it looks like we’re not really able to move on for a while..

 

 

Always think in possibilities! Trivia Pursuit via Skype, why not?

 

OONNEEEEEHUNDREDANDEIIIIIGHTY!

 

Time will tell how things unfold.

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