By Anita Graafland

Stuck in Amsterdam as I am at the moment (no home in Cornwall any longer, and the holiday park doesn’t open until 1 March), I thought we’d have to quietly drop our monthly Border Talk feature this issue. But then Emmanuelle told us of the nightmare of travelling to France for the Christmas holiday. I interviewed her this morning; this is my recap.

Struggling with her sense of responsibility towards the Cornish community she is part of, French-born Emmanuelle and her husband Joe discussed at great length whether or not they should visit their family in France over Christmas. After all, it had been two years since her parents had last seen their grandchildren in the flesh, her mother had had a serious operation and her father is well into his 80s – if not now, then when?

Not doing the usual back and forth for two years and then having to travel with a family of four at a time of constantly changing Covid-19 restrictions is highly stressful to start with, not to mention prohibitively expensive if you need the right kinds of tests and paperwork for four people. But it was the horror of the testing and the treatment at the hands of people who clearly weren’t properly trained for the job that really made their stress levels spike.

With their usual ferry from Plymouth to Roscoff not running, they now had to drive all the way to Portsmouth to get on a ferry to St Malo. To be allowed to travel, the entire family had to produce negative results on a test taken in the previous 24 hours. Not an easy thing to do if you’re hoping to make the crossing on a Monday evening. Em managed to find a company – the “Ryanair among testing companies”, as she said – offering tests from a dismal shop in a street in Portsmouth. The company had taken their money, and Joe and Em had to download an app, but they had no idea what they would find and whether this obviously commercial outfit even existed. As it was, they showed up at the appointed time, only to find that 40 other people had appointments at exactly the same time as well. The staff were obviously untrained in all things medical, they didn’t display the usual care one would expect, the woman letting them in was awful and hadn’t heard of a thing called “service” in her life, and when Joe’s download of the app wasn’t working, she just shooed him out of the shop, without any word of support or help. Plus which, the tests were the exact same ones they could have taken at home, free on the NHS instead of at 45 pounds a pop, setting the family back by 180 pounds for the journey to France alone.

Luckily, if slightly nerve-rackingly, the test results came back in time for Em and her family to be allowed to travel. Compared with this, going through customs was a piece of cake, with the UK border force obviously uninterested in who was leaving the country, and French officials being nice and welcoming. The family made the most of their dual-nationality status, thus avoiding any unpleasantness they might incur on the way back, although the UK border force did want to know if they had left their roof box unattended at any time, clearly more interested in a stowaway than in any French cheese she might be bringing over.

Having now made the trip for the first time in two years, and having gone through this particular testing nightmare, Em feels confident that she and her family have turned a corner – a big hurdle has been taken. They’re now discussing their next trip and whether or not they should bring the grandparents over to Cornwall.

It was a real pleasure talking to Em about her travels and so we thought it would be a good idea to open up this feature to other Cornwall for Europe members. Surely you have border stories to regale us with, things you’ve noticed since the UK Brexited. And are there any notable Brexit-related differences? Or is it just Covid-19 and all the extra requirements that are putting you off – or not? Is it just us who have families in two countries that are travelling? Or do we have members who have a holiday experience they’d like to share? Here in Amsterdam, I see friends and neighbours travelling to Switzerland and Italy again to ski – are the British doing the same? Do let us know at newsroom@cornwallforeurope.com, we’d be delighted to hear from you!

Featured image by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash