Coronavirus Reports from Our Guides in Europe — Week 3

Both at home and in Europe, people are settling in for the long haul of self-isolation. And my workmates and I are finding that being in touch with our European guides is bringing us a lot of joy and relief. Continuing our Friday tradition, here are a few of the European reports we received this week.

Our European guides are keeping in touch with each other as they all weather the same crisis, in different places. For example, Cameron Hewitt, the co-author of my Eastern Europe guidebooks, told me: “I spent an hour early this morning on a virtual ‘happy hour’ with nine of our Eastern Europe guides — each video-calling in from a different country — and I was moved by the camaraderie, caring, and good nature of everyone involved. The screen was like a ‘Brady Bunch’ of warm Slavic spirit.”

As we’ve been in touch with our guides, we’ve been receiving touching responses back from them. One of our German guides — having just received government assistance due to unemployment — emailed us volunteering to forego his assigned tours this year, so we could offer that work to other guides in tougher financial straits. It’s a reminder of the generous spirit that makes our guiding team so special.

Andrea Wolf, from Austria, described how important it is for her to be a part of the Rick Steves’ Europe family:

“When I tell my friends that I might not be able to work this year because of the global and local travel bans, they think that I am primarily worried about the lost income and should try to find a new job. But the truth is that for me being a guide for RSE is so much more than ‘just a job’ — it’s a lifestyle! A rather privileged lifestyle, I would say. And a vocation. I love traveling and working as a guide for RSE, and I am especially grateful and also a little proud to be part of this great team for many years. … I also wear my ‘Keep on travelin” T-shirt when I go for walks around the woods here. Mostly to remind myself that this situation is temporary and that I will be on the road again soon, doing what I love and sharing my passion for traveling with others.”

We also received a pair of reports from France-based guides, describing what their everyday lives are like right now.

Safely self-isolating on a farm in Burgundy, Virginie More writes:

“On our farm with four goats, five hens, and a lot of gardening and landscaping to do, I cannot complain. I have plenty of space and I am busy. I am just glad I do not live in Lyon anymore… However, the traveling bug will be kicking in very soon as my guiding season was supposed to start. To cope with this lack of traveling, I am going to share on my Facebook page (Virginie More Travel) a post every day about the place where I was supposed to be guiding. I will keep it short and entertaining, but with cultural and historical information: sharing a French word of the day, food specialty, traditions, meeting the locals, photos, etc. I am excited to get people, future travelers, involved in this virtual travel: Keep on traveling!”

To join Virginie’s virtual tour, you can follow her on Facebook.

And finally, in Paris, Veronique Cauquil Savoye  (on her blog French Girl in Seattle Takes Paris) describes how her world has shrunk to a small triangle where she now spends all of her time:

“Week 2 of le confinement (it always sounds so much better in French!) is wrapping up. My life, these days, is much smaller: Hours go by within a few blocks in a quiet (too quiet) neighborhood in the French capital’s outskirts. These days, there are three landmarks, or parameters, in my new life: The Parisian studio where I spend most of my time. The streets where I walk about twice a week to shop for food and essentials at the few stores that remain open. And finally, le Bois de Vincennes, where so many excellent adventures and workouts take place year-round. That was then, this is now: I can use my daily exercise allowance there for less than an hour before returning indoors for the rest of the day. My Parisian life used to be a matrix of interconnected streets, metro lines, landmarks, parks, and gardens. Because of the Paris lockdown, it’s turned into a triangle.

“Le Bois de Vincennes is my favorite corner of the triangle. … During the Paris lockdown, I can’t use my favorite trails and disappear deep inside the wooded areas. I still head to a small, empty section of le Bois at the end of my street every morning. There, nature is oblivious to the dramatic and stupefying events unfolding in Paris and around the world: Thanks to nature, the show is going on. The Canadian geese have returned, fighting loudly, as majestic swans, ducks, and other creatures glide along a small lake. Yesterday, I spotted the first fluffy ducklings swimming around, their small legs furiously batting in the clear water to keep up with their mom. On the trees, I spot trail markings, taunting me.

“This dedicated observer of urban life catches herself noticing more details than usual on her way to the store, a plaque on a façade, an arresting architectural ornament on an Art Nouveau building. … When I can, I patronize small businesses. I buy fresh produce at le Primeur around the corner. For everything else, I head to the Parisian’s Mecca: Monoprix. I was pleasantly surprised they offered a delivery service, or a second option, ‘le Click and Collect’ (everything sounds so much cooler in English!). During the Paris lockdown, you can click all you want: You will only collect frustration. The local Monoprix is swamped. If you want to eat, you need to hoof it, wear gloves, and a mask if available.

“Meanwhile, I have grown quite fond of the 20 square meter (265 square foot) studio I have called home — nicknamed ‘the 7th Heaven’ — since I relocated to Paris a year ago. It may be small, yet it’s also bright and peaceful (the next-door neighbor moved out during the holidays). When I return from shopping, feeling like Jeremiah Johnson after he survived yet another winter in the Rocky Mountains, I unpack supplies and try to make it all fit inside my diminutive fridge, freezer, and pantry. The windowsills come in handy!

“We may come out of this with bad hairstyles, a few extra pounds, and an increased addiction to Wi-Fi and social media. One thing’s for certain: The sun will rise tomorrow morning, and the morning after that, above the 7th Heaven. A bientôt!

We’re wishing continued good health to our many European friends. Now would be a great time to reach out and say hello to a guide, or another European, who looms large in your happy travel memories.

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