Riding the Waves That Roll Our Way
Another week gone in the depths of SW France and the month of November is almost over.
I can feel winter now, and taste it much the same way I can taste coffee when it’s being brewed. There’s an aroma of chill in the air, yet the colors and warmth of fall still linger. The hills around us have transformed into layers upon layers of oranges and brown that cascade towards the Pyrénées, the latter now permanently white, covered in a blanket of snow that will probably last until next spring. Warm and cold together.
Yet I also feel things are changing, both in ways we know and and ways we can only guess. Some are predictable and have a rhythm that is pleasant and known. Others are planned, or perhaps secretly so. While yet more are unexpected and can only be taken as they come.
All of these things have happened here in SW France these past two weeks in some form or another; from a 5th COVID wave to a Scandinavian Borg-like take-over and our van getting stuck at the garage.
In between it all we just continue to chug along, riding the waves that roll our way.
The 5th COVID-19 Wave Is Here
It’s happened, the winter surge has started. Europe is officially in the grips of its 5th COVID wave and once again, everything is up in the air.
Tell me, how did we end up here again?
It seems inconceivable, but in truth I think the whole thing is actually quite simple. COVID-19 has become endemic similar to the seasonal flu, which means it’s never going away. But unlike the latter it remains too contagious and deadly to just “let be”. So although we have more tools (esp. vaccines and boosters, masks etc.) to dampen the impact now than we’ve ever had before, not everyone has chosen to use them. And we’re seeing the results of those decisions now.
In Europe it’s quite clear. The biggest surges, specifically in hospitalization are happening in the countries with the lowest vaccination rates, and so restrictions are the only options left. Austria (64% fully vaccinated*) has taken the most aggressive approach, announcing a total lock down of their population for 20 days, with mandatory vaccination required for everyone by Feb. Germany (67% fully vaccinated*) is considering a similar path, announcing a “national emergency” which could entail a full lock-down if things don’t abate. These are serious responses.
In other European countries a somewhat softer (but still restrictive) approach is happening.
Denmark has re-instated it’s “Coronapas” after lifting all restrictions only a few months ago. In the Netherlands proof of COVID vaccination (or negative test) is now required for bars, restaurants & events, all of which will have curfews. Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Greece, Luxemburg and more are all following a similar path. In Belgium it’s the same, plus they’ve imposed work-from-home and mandatory indoor masks. Even Sweden, the holdout of all holdouts in Europe is now instating a vaccination requirement for indoor events of more than 100 people. It’s a poignant trend….
The only real exceptions so far? Portugal and Malta (both over 80% fully vaccinated*) followed by Spain, Italy (over 70% vaccinated*) and finally France, all of whom have higher vaccination rates, are heavily promoting boosters and have maintained masking and test requirements. An infection surge is still happening in these countries, but not nearly as fast as other parts of Europe, and the hope (hope, hope, hope!) is that hospitalization & ICU occupancy rates will remain manageable (as they did in the 4th wave) so that lockdowns & drastic restrictions don’t have to occur.
Only time will tell.
Within our little household we’re doing our best to do our part. Paul and dad have already had their booster vaccines, while I’m scheduled for mine early next month. Plus of course we’re all getting the flu vaccine. In the meantime we’ll just wait and hope that France avoids the worst.
Some things are unpredictable…..
*NOTE/ Vaccination Rates: For vaccination rates, I’ve used the numbers from European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control which show % of fully vaxxed by total population. You may see different numbers on the web & in various news articles, depending on whether they are quoting single-dose uptake, 2-dose uptake, and also whether they count the total population or just the adult population.
Scandinavians Are Taking Over
On a lighter note, I believe the second Viking wave has arrived in SW France and that’s a rather more positive event.
This is a modern take-over of course, less of the pillaging approach and more of a subtle infiltration scheme. And although I can’t directly say it’s got anything to do with me, I can’t deny that all of this has happened since we arrived in the area. Coincidence? Or is it the Master Plan of all Danes, our top secret strategy for world domination? Say no more….
Consider these two recent events.
Remember the Château down the road? The one we lived in for a few months as we pondered potential futures? Well as you know we passed on buying it, but just a few months later two young Danes came along and decided it was exactly what they wanted. Even more intriguing, there’s now rumors that Danish TV might come down and film their journey, kind of like “Escape to the Chateau, Danish Style”. Can you imagine? I had no part in any of this of course, but I can lay claim to infusing the first Danish tentacles into the place, which of course is how all these Master Plans are launched.
Plant a seed, it will grow….
Then there’s our local Carrefour. In typical late-November style the whole entrance of our supermarket is now festively decked-out with Christmas decorations, Beaujolais Nouveau and boxes of fancy chocolate.
These are annual occurrences which are very much expected, but what’s new this year is that all the Juletide decor has a distinct Scandinavian style. Decidedly so, in fact. Instead of the usual glittery baubles and tinsel we have Nisser (Danish Chrismas Elves), Dala horses (a typical Swedish thing) and traditional Scandinavian Christmas hearts, and not just a few items either but entire displays of the stuff. Once again, I can’t say I had any part in this….officially anyway….but I’m delighted to see the results.
Some things are inevitable. But don’t worry my friends, our take-over will be (mostly) painless…
Some Things Remain (Comfortingly) The Same
Our van is at the garage this week.
It’s nothing serious mind you, just a few new filters and such, work which would (under normal circumstances) only take a day or so. But this is France and the unexpected should always be expected. So when I hadn’t heard anything from the garage for over a week I decided to give them a call.
“Bonjour” (always the best way to start) “Je voulais juste faire le point sur notre Fiat Ducato, qu’on a laissé chez vous il ya une semaine?” (I just wanted to check on our van that we left with you a week ago)
“Ah oui, votre fourgeon. En fait il y a une grève chez Fiat. Nous ne recevons plus de pièces” (ah yes, your van. In fact there’s a strike at Fiat. We’re not getting any parts).
A strike. Of course. That explains everything.
“Et ça va continuer longtemps, cette grève?” I asked, hopeful they’d scheduled an end-date (will it continue a long time, this strike?)
“Peut-être quelques semaines ? On vous tiendra au courrant.” (maybe a few weeks? we’ll keep you updated)
And that was two weeks ago….
Apparently some kind of takeover (not Danish) is happening, which in typical French style has naturally launched a strike. So the Fiat parts depot has been blocked, and all the Fiat garages just have to wait until it gets sorted out. Ah well, c’est la vie. After three years in France, it’s perhaps a testament to our integration here that I was neither surprised nor annoyed by this. In fact, with COVID and everything that’s entailed, I found solace in the fact that the French haven’t lost their striking resolve.
Thankfully, some things remain absolute and immutable….
In the Meantime We Chug Along
We’re rolling towards the end of November, and life is chugging along.
We have days of biting cold and rain, interspersed with others of brilliant sunshine and surprising warmth. And in between it all we follow a rhythm that flows pleasantly like the hills; walks with Polly, market visits, work and play. It’s a good life and I honestly can’t complain about any of it.
But we also have hopes and plans, as all folks do.
We have travel plans for December that we’re crossing all fingers and paws will work out, plans that have been in the making for over a year. If they happen we’ll be somewhere else a month from now, and if they don’t….well, then I guess things have changed again.
And we hope to work on the van again….whenever we get it back that is.
Most of all we hope we avoid another lockdown, but some things are beyond our control. All we can do is ride the waves that roll our way.
So, my dear blog readers I know many of you are in the USA and so Thanksgiving is around the corner. Do you have plans to travel, or are you staying home? Are any of you in the SW desert? DO share and comment below!SPONSORED LINK:
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We LOooVE Comments, So Please Do
Linda Sand says
The infection rates in our county keep rising but we’re not at lockdown stage yet. We’ve had our covid booster and flu shots but we are staying home for Thanksgiving anyway. I am so glad you got to take your trip before all this happened again. We have a large Scandinavian population in Minnesota so Dali horses and lefse are regular things around here. In fact my husband’s ancestry is 3/4 Swedish and 1/4 Norwegian. No Danish, though so Nisser are new to me since you first mentioned them your blog. 🙂
Of course! So much Scandinavian influence in the MidWest. Interesting that Dala Horses are so widespread there.
Peter & John says
Some of us are indeed in the Desert SW! We’re spending the next week or so in an isolated waterfront boondocking spot along the shoreline of Lake Mead, where we’ll be celebrating US Thanksgiving with Tom & Cait Morton. We’re certainly hoping that things calm down further on the Covid front, as we’re hatching plans to RV from Paris to Lisbon (via SW France of course!) in September/October of 2022. Hope you are both well, and hope we get to see you next year.
I’m jealous of that SW desert boondocking spot. How wonderful! As for COVID I think it’ll be around for a long time, but as long as you’re vaccinated travel will remain (or should remain!) fairly easy. Looking very much forward to hopefully seeing you guys over here next year!
Lisa Cantrell says
We are in NY but just spent 2 weeks in Italy where their approach to Covid seems so much more common sense also than here in the US. In virtually every place one can enter-stores, restaurants, hotels, venues, even elevators there are huge bottles of alcohol handwash. Masks are de rigeur in any enclosed space and people often raise or Don them when walking in crowds. There were student protests we saw in both Venice and Florence “contra il Green Pass” but small crowds. Here in upstate NY masks are common but not worn by all and we have only a 67% vaccination rate. Although we had to fill out COPIOUS forms regarding our status AND be tested to return to the US, neither was checked when we arrived. In FL, where some of my family live, my sister reports that almost no-one wears a mask and they have only a 62% vaccinated rate.
I hope la grève resolves soon and you’ll be able to travel. We (hubby and 2/3 ,sons and families) will be joining my SIL family and one niece with her new fiancé but everyone is vaccinated and boosted so we’re hoping all will go well. Enjoy your weather. It wS such a joy to fly over the Alps again and I’m already plotting a return for a longer stay with hopes that the trend toward control will be able to be sustained. I agree that Covid is likely to be around for at least the foreseeable future and hope sane approaches will also become commonplace.
IMO Italy are doing a very good job of keeping things under control. They were so hard hit in the 1st wave, worse than any other EU country, so they remain very serious about vaccinations and precautions. Hopefully the measures they’ve implemented will keep hospitalizations under control. We are hoping the same for France.
1I thought about you guys as we were coming down the coast – past some of your favourite lighthouses. Made the move inland, and now, at last, in warm, pleasant, sandy, deserted desert in the Mohave National Preserve. It’s beautiful, warm, and blissful. So glad to be back. Wish you were here, too! Hailey is thrilled to be able to be outside, stalking her prey in the warm sun – unlike the cold snow last winter stuck at home.
Treats for Polly!
Oh yes….the warmth of the desert. I can feel it from here, and see those amazing sunsets in my mind. So happy you’ve made it down there this year Ivan. Enjoy!!!
Thanks for the update on the unfortunate COVID situation affecting our countries. Based on the latest stats, the vaccination rate in France is ok but not even close to Malta and Portugal which are among the highest rates in EU with Italy close behind. For Spain we are missing data so no way of knowing accurately.
You are correct. Portugal, Malta and Italy have done a very good job with their vaccination rates (I need to make this clearer in the post). France is good, but not as high. I hope it’s enough to prevent overloading of the hospitals, but only time will tell.
We travelled from Elephant Butte to Senator Wash with a brief stop in Quartzsite for some shopping and a Silly Al’s pizza. Silly Al’s now closes at 8:00 PM. There is a rig next to us flying the French flag. I plan to introduce him to your blog.
Jorge Horácio Oliveira says
I have been following your blog for a long time and one of the reasons why I do so, apart from many others, is the care given to the information you provide.
But this time ( there is always a first time) you failed to mention Portugal as being the first European country
in terms of vaccination rates (over 87%).
Perhaps you will think that it is not very important, but for me it is and I would like you to consider this observation as an contribution to the reliability of your information.
My best regards
Jorge H. Oliveira
You are absolutely correct Jorge, and I do apologize. It’s true that Portugal has done an incredible job of their vaccination rate, the best in Europe in fact. It was a mistake to omit them. I will add Portugal to the blog post and make this clearer. Every now and then I do make errors, so thank you for keeping me in line and pointing it out!
Jorge Horácio Oliveira says
No need to apologize, you made my day.
As you know, we’re in the desert SW, enjoying the ebb and flow of life here. Life is what it is and we take it as it comes and try to wring enjoyment out of it all, as do you. We’re celebrating Thanksgiving by ourselves as we usually do and counting our blessings. We’re thankful for good friends, near and far, we’re thankful for your friendship, albeit from afar. Hope your van moves back home soon and that you can keep up with it’s transformation!
We miss you guys too! And dear Lew of course.
Pauline Conn says
It’s a beautiful day in Apache Junction, AZ, here on the edge of the desert. 72F this morning. Doors open, finally, and blankets needed at night. Thanksgiving will be celebrated with our beloved Canadians who hightailed it south, following each other like lemmings once the Canada/US border was open. We’ve much to be thankful for; being reunited with our friends of many years. We’ll be eating outside-turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing (you may call it dressing!) gravy, au jus, rolls and pumpkin pie. Oh, and of course cranberry sauce. Happy Thanksgiving to all of us. Time to count our many blessings. Pauline
It’s so nice to hear how many of our Canadian friends are making it back to the SW this winter. I know many were locked out because of COVID last year. What a wonderful reunion it will be!
Sue Malone says
Love your writing so very much, Nina. You can impart incredible amounts of knowledge in straightforward and readable words. I get more news about your world in Europe than I can ever find around here. As you no doubt know, our news is nothing but politics and mayhem. Sheesh. Our family and good friends are all fully vaxed and boosted, so we will be having Thanksgiving here at home this year. I love the tradition, and thankfully the family isn’t huge and no one has to travel very far to get here. Last year Mo and I celebrated alone in the MoHo at the beach, which was delightful, but I am looking forward to the big family dinner once again. Do hope your December plans work out. We are heading to Brookings mid-month to camp and see the gorgeous lights at Azalea Park once again. It was canceled last year so I am happy that it will be on this year.
Can’t wait to see your pics from Brookings. I think you were the first blogger I ever read in that area (many years ago), so you were part of our original inspiration to go there. Enjoy!
Hello from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Love your blog. Yes we are all hanging in there along with everyone else, the weather here has been great, we have been able to still do bike rides in the morning. However, our Covid numbers have been going higher even with our states high vaccination rate and indoor mask requirement. Take care and have a nice holiday season!
I believe we’re going to see a surge in infections everywhere this winter, but in places with higher vaccination rates we should (hopefully!) see lower hospitalization & ICU occupancy rates. That’s going to be the key IMO. COVID is here to stay, but if we can dampen its impact (less serious cases, less people ending up in ICU etc.) through vaccinations (especially) as well as other preventative measures, then it should stay manageable. That’s my hope anywyay.
Greetings from the SE valley near Phoenix, AZ! We are finally getting into the best weather period in our area, 70s all week, a few clouds (but doesn’t look like we’ll get any much needed rain). Like many other areas around the world, our Covid rates are going up so we all need to be vigilant, get our boosters, take vitamins, hand-washing, etc. I’m making a 15 lb turkey (smallest I could find) just for the three of us so I’ll be looking at Pinterest next week for ideas to use leftovers lol. We will be staying close to home now until next May when we will be doing a l-o-n-g road trip to coastal Maine. Being from CT originally we will visit family and friends along the way. Love reading yours blog and seeing your beautiful photos! Happy Thanksgiving and stay well!
That Maine trip sounds wonderful!! Enjoy your winter and loooong trip next May.