Travel restrictions, curfews and Covid-19 tests are making holidays difficult for everyone so were delighted when British journalist John Arlidge shrugged these issues aside to venture to Case Fajara in July, 2021.
And we were equally delighted when he mentioned our boutique hotel in his travel review in the Daily Telegraph. Despite the hassles, he says going on holiday is most definitely worth it.
Here we share what he had to say. Alternatively, click here to read John’s review.
John Arlidge’s Daily Telegraph article:
For me, Monday July 12 was freedom day. By fluke, I had booked a week’s family holiday last September with a return date of Monday July 19. A stolen week in Carrapateira, Portugal, before the end of restrictions back home. What could be better?
It did not look that way at 7am on Monday 12 July at Heathrow Airport. The queue for security wound around the check-in desks because only two security lines were open. Some 120 security staff had not turned up for work because, airport staff said, one of their shift had tested positive for Covid and the entire crew had to isolate at home.
But the funny thing was, nobody seemed to care about the delay. As the couple in front of me heading to Greece for a fortnight put it: “What’s another two hours when you’ve waited 18 months to get away?”
In fact, it was a good introduction to “new-style” holidays. From my experience of the last few days, holidays can be fun now but only if you are the kind of person who is patient, well organised, has strong nerves – and is happy to keep your mobile phone on.
Testing was simple and not too expensive
Take getting away – with in my case, Stephanie, my other half, and our two teenage children. We all had to fill out and submit our Portugal passenger locator forms and book our Fit to Fly tests. The good news is, Portugal accepts lateral flow tests which you can do at home on a video consultation and cost around £30 each.
We booked our tests on qured.com. They mail out the test kits and we scheduled our 10-minute consultations. I’ve used qured on journalistic assignments and found them to be the most reliable and cost effective testing service. It’s a nervy process – if any one member of the family tests positive, he or she can’t go and, if that’s a child, one of the adults can’t go, too. Studies suggest lateral-flow tests give one false positive in every 1,000 tests. Fortunately, we were all negative.
British Airways has improved its booking services lately and we all printed it out, scanned and uploaded our negative test certificates to our booking for pre-departure approval. BA handled the check in and bag drop as quickly as they could – they still manually double check all the paperwork which takes 2–3 minutes per passenger.
We were ‘too excited to feel flight shame’
BA staff called forward passengers for flights in time order to make sure they got through security in time to board. BA 2694 to Faro only left 40 minutes late and arrived 20 minutes late, thanks to a fast flight time. There was even time to buy a celebratory bottle of champagne (or four as I like to call it) at Duty Free.
There are few better feelings right now than sitting in a metal tube, breaking through the clouds into private sunshine, on the way to somewhere – anywhere – away. We were all too excited to feel any flight shame and the BA staff who have had a wretched 18 months of job losses and furlough were so happy to be back in the office at 39,000ft that they handed out extra free drinks.
At Faro airport Stephanie and I showed our vaccination certificates at immigration – the print-out from the NHS is quickest. As they are under 18, our children do not have to be vaccinated to get into the country. Doing all the checks takes about 10 minutes for a family of four, so it’s a good idea to race off the plane to get to the front of the queue. After picking up the hire car and driving for an hour we arrived at Casa Fajara, a rustic hotel for surfers and hikers.
You remember how great it feels to be on holiday
And then something fantastic happens. You remember how great it feels to be on holiday. These days, it’s more than simple happiness. It’s a pressure valve for the strains of the past 18 months. Within 24 hours, things that seemed worrisome even a few days earlier, don’t. You are free.
The locals are happy to see you, too. “We’ve missed you,” said Lara who runs Casa Fajara. Places like Carrapateira depend on tourism and the absence of Brits is a 20% hit to the bottom line. In 2019, the travel industry contributed 10.4% of global GDP, more than either the car industry or banking.
Portugal’s Covid rules do not spoil the fun. We didn’t have to mask up unless we were in a public place and not eating or drinking (which, being on holiday, we usually are). Locals know that all visiting Brits are either fully vaccinated or have tested negative for Covid or both. No-one mentioned the D word – Delta.
Go away for a week – better still two!
But – and this is where the mobile phone comes in – we couldn’t relax completely. Before returning on Monday this week we had to look out for the emails with the links to fill out and submit our UK passenger locator forms and do our return flight video lateral flow tests.
The BA check-in at Faro was quick and the airport quiet. But the queues at T5 immigration were long – 2 hours – because the government and Heathrow Airport had inexplicably not updated the locator form or the E-Gates to recognise double vaccinated Brits returning from Amber countries. But that has been fixed now after a campaign by Telegraph Travel.
So, my advice is go away for a week or, better yet, two before the rules change again. It’s well worth it.