Many travel addicts like me often spurn destinations they have already visited. But not me. France is one destination that I’ve gone back to time and again. It was France that turned out to be my only overseas destination in 2020 before the pandemic took off. And, when Road Scholar announced they were going to restart programs in the summer and fall, I quickly signed up a September 2021 date of a program that had been on my wish list for a while: French Canal Voyage by Barge: Discover Alsace-Lorraine. It would be my sixth Road Scholar program in France in the past eight years.
I was a bit unsure of what traveling to Europe during a pandemic would be like, but Road Scholar went to rather extraordinary lengths to ensure that we got all the coaching and hand-holding we needed to clear the hurdles set for those traveling internationally. Read on to find out how Road Scholar made travel to France during a pandemic easy!
The rules for both entering the EU and returning to the U.S. could seem intimidating, but Road Scholar arranged a Zoom video call for those of us enrolled in the September Road Scholar programs in France when all our questions could be answered. We learned that, though a COVID-19 test wasn’t required to leave the U.S., proof of a negative test was required to re-enter the U.S. (citizen or not). Road Scholar also walked us through the requirements from France, which included a “Pass Sanitaire” (Immunity Passport) that would prove we were vaccinated. This required us to get a QR code from the French government by registering online.
The head of Road Scholar France personally assured us that, even if we did not receive our Pass Sanitaire prior to entering France, she and her staff would ensure that we would get it once we arrived. (And that’s exactly what happened.) On our first day in Strasbourg, our expert Group Leader took us to the one pharmacy in Strasbourg where the pass could be issued upon presentation of one’s vaccination record.
The program itself went off without a hitch. French Canal Voyage by Barge: Discover Alsace-Lorraine was the perfect introduction to Alsace-Lorraine and one I would recommend to any Francophile. Strasbourg may not be as big or famous as Paris, but it has a great deal to offer that should not be missed. And the Alsace-Lorraine countryside is unique in its bicultural lore and traditions. It’s almost like getting two countries in one, since Germany is literally just on the other side of the Rhine River.
And then — for the re-entry into the U.S. Trying to get a COVID-19 test in the U.S. can be confusing enough, but add to that a foreign government and healthcare system and a language barrier, and it might have seemed overwhelming to arrange the required COVID test we needed in France. But, amazingly, Road Scholar made provision for all of the participants to be tested before we left the barge! A medical team came onto the barge and executed all the required testing. Since most of us were departing for the U.S. on the day of disembarkation, and the test had to be no more than 72 hours prior to flying homebound, this worked out seamlessly.
So, my travel in the time of COVID, like Marquez’s novel “Love in the time of Cholera,” followed a circular path — ending up where my international travel addiction had been interrupted: in France. Road Scholar made it all possible and as stress free as could be. We all felt safe and in knowledgeable hands with our Group Leader, Libby, and the CroisiEurope barge staff kept us not only on course, but entertained, fed and watered with the finest French cuisine and wines (not to mention cheeses).
Seeing this region of France was more than reward enough for the extra thought and care it took to get there. Now I’m preparing for Antarctica this winter with Road Scholar. The provider is Danish, not French, so I guess I’ll have to settle for Danish instead of croissant for breakfast! Quel dommage!
– Teresa Wilkin, Road Scholar Ambassador