“I just want to feel alive for a few days”

Sara wanted to visit museums again, David found a dirty way to get around border controls and Matthew takes the first chance to jump on a plane to Italy: A year into the coronavirus crisis, more Europeans feel the need to go on Covid -19 breaks.

Before the year Covid-19, Sara *, a 37-year-old Parisian, would, on average, embark on an international trip once every six weeks. “It was part of my lifestyle,” she said.

But as the global pandemic spread in early 2020, and country after country began to close its borders, she quickly saw her travel plans crumble. “It was so depressing.”

When France, along with many other European countries, imposed strict anti-Covid-19 restrictions – including two nationwide lockdowns and the prolonged closure of restaurants, museums and cinemas – she felt she could not breathe. “It made me realize how important culture is in my life. I love culture and museums, and suddenly I had to do nothing but stay at home, she says.

In December, when France announced that its second lock-in would allow for a curfew at 6pm but restaurants and cultural venues would remain closed, she could no longer take it. She bought plane tickets to Portugal for a “Covid-19 break” for herself and her nephew.

“It was heaven, because almost everything was still open,” she said. The feeling of just being able to go and sit down at a restaurant and to be served at the table. It was heaven. ”

Sara and her nephew (pictured) skipped Paris and its curfew just before Christmas to spend a few days “living a normal life”. © Private

The short getaway from the Covid-19 restrictions gave Sara a taste for more of the same and she is now planning a spring trip to Rome, which is still under curfew from 10pm to 5am but where bars, restaurants and museums reopened earlier this month.

“I want to go where there are the least possible restrictions. There is no point in going somewhere where everything is closed. I just want to feel alive. But I will respect other Covid-19 restrictions, of course, by wearing a face mask and by practicing social distancing. ”

Full plane to Stockholm

Sweden, which has opposed grain and adopted one of the world’s most relaxed Covid-19 strategies, has become another popular destination for Covid-weary Europeans.

When a team of Jowharreporters flew from Paris to Stockholm in early February to report on Sweden’s controversial Covid-19 strategy, they were surprised to see the number of French tourists heading to Stockholm.

“The plane was full,” said one of the reporters, Clovis Casali.

“And when we arrived with the shuttle in central Stockholm, everyone just looked at each other with confused expressions on their faces as if to say,” What do we do now – do we wear masks or what? “

“When you wore a face mask on the street there, everyone just looked at you in a strange way,” he said.

While in Stockholm, Casali talked to a French couple who had taken a short weekend break from the limitations of home.

“They told us how good they felt they could walk around without masks.”

Party central

Birgitta Palmer, spokeswoman for the tourist information agency Visit Stockholm, said that although tourism in the city has fallen quite dramatically during the pandemic, “it has not fallen as much in Stockholm compared to the average in other large European cities”.

Although she said it was still too early to say whether this could be attributed to Sweden’s lighter Covid-19 restrictions, she said that international tourists interviewed by Swedish media have stated that Sweden’s’ openness and ability to move more freely are the main reasons for their visits rather than individual attractions ”.

In April last year, when most European countries – including France, Italy and Spain – were during their first nationwide lockdown, the Swedish tabloid “Expressen” reported that European jet setters flocked to Stockholm “to get their hair done, go to restaurants and that party”.

The newspaper interviewed a hairdresser who told how a Swiss woman paid the equalized price of 1,800 euros just for a flight to Stockholm to get her hair done. “She was very happy that she could come here and dye her hair, and apparently many of her friends had done the same,” she said. “It is women from Europe who travel here because their own countries have closed. They come here to fix hair and nails, eat out at restaurants and then party at night. ”

Since then, however, Sweden has tightened its Covid-19 restrictions: Bars and restaurants may only serve food and drinks to seated guests, and they may not serve alcohol after 20:00.

Not always “super legal”

David *, who runs a London-based London business, said that thanks to the many exemptions granted to his industry during the pandemic, he has been able to use his work projects as an excuse to continue traveling.

“In recent months, my travels have not always been super-legal,” he said, referring to the UK’s current deadlock and rules against non-essential travel. He lists France, Italy, Spain and Turkey among his latest destinations.

“At first I was quite scared by saying that the trips were all work-related, but I have never been checked.”

Matthew, who lived in London, plans to travel to Italy the first chance he gets. © Private

Matthew *, a 26-year-old Australian globetrotter who currently lives and works in London, said he had no choice but to respect Britain’s current lockdown rules, “because no one is letting people in from the UK right now. [because of the British variant]. But as soon as I can go, I will come ”.

“Italy is relatively open now, so it would be a place I would go to. I would choose destinations based on the fact that they were more relaxed than in London. ”

In August, just as Britain was starting to tighten its Covid-19 restrictions, he went on a three-week trip to Portugal. “It was a way for me to get away from the stress of living in London, Covid-19-wise. It was definitely what I would call a Covid-19 break. ”

A woman takes a photo in front of the closed gates of the Louvre in Paris. February 22, 2021 © FRANCE 24 / Louise Nordstrom

Meanwhile, Paris – which is regularly ranked as the world’s top tourist destination – has been hit hard by the nearly year-long Covid-19 restrictions that still reign in the city, resulting in a reduction in visitors by 14.3 million to just 9.4 million in the first half 2020.

On Sunday, when spring-like temperatures brought large crowds outside, all Jowharapproached in front of the closed gates of the Louvre Museum to be either expats or French locals.

At the Eiffel Tower, a Russian family almost ran over the Jowharreporter in a hurry to get to the “Iron Lady”.

“We do not have time to talk,” said the father, pointing to his watch. “Curfew!”

* Names have changed