Cornwall feels just slightly less picturesque when you have Covid.
Cornwall feels just slightly less picturesque when you have Covid.

Another travel misadventure: Title it ‘Covid in Cornwall’

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Squished in a window seat on a flight from Heathrow to SFO, I have 10 hours to reflect on my star-crossed journey. My husband had booked aisle and window seats, hoping no one would come between us. Alas, a big burly guy claimed his seat just as we were about to take off. After a bout with Covid, I was returning home with muscle cramps and congestion. My husband, the only one in our Cornwall cottage who didn’t contract Covid, awoke the next day with a feverish flu. Go figure.

I should have anticipated the tenor of this trip when we were about to deplane in London and my husband couldn’t find his wallet, which contained his credit cards, cash and his driver’s license. It never made it to London. Instead, it was waiting safely in an obscure SFO security office. Despite our TSA PreCheck-Global Entry status, my husband was asked to empty his pockets, remove his belt and then take out his passport. He reclaimed his passport and belt but forgot about the wallet in a separate tray.

Over our 22-year marriage, with travel on five continents, adventure and misadventure has a way of finding us, whether it’s a pickpocket in Barcelona or an angry Roosevelt elk in the redwoods. But our week in Cornwall wasn’t supposed to be an adventure. Instead, I was looking forward to visiting gardens, galleries and rugged coasts, and wallowing in clotted Cornish cream.

My son and his family, who live in Yorkshire, had rented a three-bedroom cottage in Truro, where we would spend a week together. Not having seen my granddaughter since 2019, we were overjoyed when his family met our train on a Friday afternoon.

On Sunday morning, I awoke with a fever, tested positive for Covid and spent five days quarantined in an upstairs bedroom, looking out the window at a lone gravestone of a woman named Catherine. My son and my husband carried meals to me on a tray and communicated with me on Facebook Messenger. Meanwhile, I napped, checked the news on my iPad, did crossword puzzles and finished “Sarum,” Edward Rutherfurd’s 1,039-page novel that traces the history of the Salisbury region from prehistoric times to 1985.

Fortunately, I was never terribly ill. Fully vaccinated and double boosted, my case of Covid was the equivalent of a 24-hour virus. Had I been forearmed, I could have traveled with a just-in-case prescription for Paxlovid, which I was unable to obtain in the U.K. On the other hand, not taking it means I didn’t have a post-Paxlovid rebound.

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But after ruining everybody’s holiday, I was plagued by post-Covid guilt.

Our rental ended the following Friday, and just as we were about to leave for the train station, my son texted us. He and his wife had contracted Covid. They couldn’t fly home to Yorkshire as planned, and the airline wouldn’t credit them for a future flight.

We offered to be caregivers and spend time with our granddaughter, but “Covid Cornelia” was as welcome as ants at a picnic. My son wanted us gone. Several days later, my granddaughter came down with Covid, delaying their return home by eight days. We could help financially — the delay cost them $2,000-plus — but we could do nothing to ameliorate a holiday gone awry.

My husband and I grabbed our suitcases and ambled down the hill to the railroad station a mile or so away because all the cabs were ferrying children to school. Still concerned about contagion, we canceled plans to dine in Bath with University of Glasgow housemate and famed astrophysicist Jocelyn Bell Burnell. Ironically, she emailed back that she, too, tested positive for Covid.

We made the best of our remaining time in the U.K. In Bath, we immersed ourselves in Jane Austen, Roman remnants and Georgian architecture, and relished a gooey-rich afternoon tea. Moving on to Salisbury, we explored ancient Sarum, the hilltop site of ancient ruins described in Rutherfurd’s book. And in Salisbury itself, home of a magnificent cathedral and the original Magna Carta, I had the best Sunday roast in my memory at our 16th-century inn.

Upon returning to London, we met up with my stepdaughter and her family, who were also visiting, and took our grandsons to the Churchill War Rooms, exploring the underground bunker where the prime minister and his officials holed up during the Blitz.

At the end of a long flight, I was glad to escape Britain’s blistering heat wave. Cornwall’s gardens will await another visit, but I looked forward to tooling around my own garden. Palo Alto is not too shabby.

Janet Silver Ghent
Janet Silver Ghent

Janet Silver Ghent, a retired senior editor at J., is the author of “Love Atop a Keyboard: A Memoir of Late-life Love” (Mascot Press). She lives in Palo Alto and can be reached at [email protected].