Boarding Air Portugal on our way to our Swiss railway journey

It began with an email from Aer Lingus. Due to complications from COVID, they would have to change our departure city, which changed half a dozen connections down the line. We struggled for two days, trying to get to where we wanted, when we wanted to get there. Finally, we gave up, requested a full refund, and started from scratch—three days before departure.

Our new route was courtesy of Portuguese Airlines, Zurich via Lisbon. “How romantic,” I thought. “Breakfast in Lisbon.”

Then came word from the Swiss government. In order to do anything indoors (including eating), everyone had to be tested for COVID every three days. Since we would be relocating every two days on our railway tour of the Swiss Alps, this would be interesting.

Things came at us quickly after that, like bullets from an AK-7:

One quick-result testing site was charging over $300 per test.

The Portuguese government was requiring a COVID test no older than 48 hours. We couldn’t board our flight for Lisbon without a test, even though we were only passing through.

The test I had already taken at my pharmacy three days before departure—not good enough. The results wouldn’t be available for three to five days. I signed up for a second test, at the Portland airport the evening before departure. It was a popup clinic on the airport parking ramp, displacing Uber and Lyft. The cost was $150—twelve-hour response guaranteed. Louise did the same in New York, also a popup clinic. They took her insurance info but hinted she may get a bill in the mail.

The popup site at PDX

The Portuguese government required proof of a recent test all right, at the counter where they take your bags. No negative test? “Next, please.”

As a consequence, the flight to Lisbon was no more than 50% full. The airline’s online reviews were dominated by appeals reading, “Where’s my refund?”

On our way to Lisbon—midflight. It really was that empty.

So now we’re in Zurich and both our tests are more than three days old. Fortunately, eating outside is quite pleasant. We’ve had two dinners at “bierhalles” where we would have chosen to eat outside no matter what the requirements. Will the pleasant weather hold? In the Swiss Alps? In late September? Stay tuned.

Oh, and about the romantic breakfast in Lisbon? It was five o’clock in the morning when we arrived. All the restaurants were closed.