We could not be happier to have had our first full weekend of departures, with arrivals in France, Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey and Croatia. We sent just over 50 happy families away, and whilst this is far fewer than usual, it is more than we might have expected a month or two ago, when signs of restrictions lifting felt a long way off.
I travelled to Corfu, Greece, on our first flight out of London Gatwick on Monday, for a much belated ‘start of season’ inspection visit. The four months of lockdown was the longest period I’ve gone without getting on a plane since university, and never have I more happily set an alarm for the early hours.
Gatwick was far quieter than I’ve ever seen it. All departures are from the North Terminal, as the South Terminal remains closed and all of the day’s departures fit on one departure board - the first time I have ever seen this at a major airport. Whilst some shops are open, many remain closed, so don’t leave too much last minute buying for the airport. However, there was enough to get by, and I am sure that more will open as demand grows.
Gatwick departures board showing all flights on one page
Check in was quick, easy, socially distanced and hassle free, as was security. All airlines flying to Greece have been advised to refuse boarding to those that have not filled out this form at least 24 hours prior to travel, and we have heard of travellers being turned away at check in. All countries have their own entry requirements, which we have summarised on our Travel Information page.
CV Villas check-in desk
There are hand sanitising stations at regular intervals, and staff and travellers all very respectful of the rules that are there for good reason.
Although it cannot be guaranteed, airlines are leaving gaps where they can and where capacity allows. Everybody wore masks, as is the law. Mine is fabric and was absolutely fine, although the blue medical type masks were by far the most popular and, I am told, the most comfortable, so I will switch to these for my next flight.
The inaugural flight of the 2020 season
The on board menu is slightly limited, but there was still plenty of choice and enough refreshments (including alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks) for those that want them. Contactless payment is generally encouraged on all airlines, and compulsory on some.
We were near the front of the plane, and were collecting our luggage within ten minutes of landing. Having spoken to various people that have arrived on different flights, if you’re at the back of the plane wait times are about 20-30 minutes, which I think is very reasonable given all that is happening. Greece are testing a random minority of arrivals for Covid-19, and travellers tested are asked to social distance until the results come through. You will be contacted within 24 hours if positive. If you hear nothing within 24 hours then the result is negative, so no news is good news.
The Greece I found upon leaving the airport was one at its most beautiful. Quiet for July, with temperatures in their early 30s and the sea ubiquitously turquoise. Almost empty beaches, quiet bars and tavernas yet with the usual splendid hospitality.
Beautiful and empty Avlaki beach
Bays where hire boats are usually jostling for space are practically empty. No hugs and kisses, but the Greeks’ unerring ability to make you feel welcome, whether you’ve been going there for years or you’re a first timer, shone through as strongly as ever.
Usually this bay by Agni is full of hired boats
It would be blinkered to say everything is totally normal – there are signs, as there should be, of the dreadful problem that has plagued the world in this most bizarre of years. However, these signs dissipate as the journey goes on and once you’re on the ground, apart from wearing masks in shops (as we now have to here), waiting and bar staff wearing visors, tables in restaurants sensibly spaced and hand sanitiser everywhere, things really don’t feel that different from last year.
Certainly when sitting on your villa’s terrace with a glass of wine, sharing the company of no one but your lucky chosen travelling companions and overlooking your beautiful private pool with the sea beyond, it really is easy to briefly forget that there’s anything wrong in the world.
View from Villa Evangelia of St Stephano
It is perfectly understandable that many have cancelled or postponed plans to travel this year. For those that are considering getting away, though, it is truly a wonderful and unique opportunity to experience the Med quieter than it has been for decades.
Imerolia Beach, Kassiopi
Spring crowds with summer weather – perfection.
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