This year, our family had expected to travel to Madrid, Sevilla, the Algarve and Lisbon. That vacation had been meticulously planned by my husband, (who should be a travel agent in his next life). But the best laid plans, well, you know… The coronavirus not only made travel dangerous or impossible, but Americans are not welcome in most foreign countries. (!!)
At first, we thought about going to a California resort to see our son. But with Covid19 raging in La La land, it made no sense to vacation in a place where the infection rate was much higher than in NYC, and then return home to more quarantining. If we were horseback riders, we could have gone to a dude ranch, but Howard has a bad back, and Samantha and I are not aspiring equestrians. We also couldn’t help wondering: wondered: how safe is flying really?
This autism mom also felt strongly opposed to renting an overpriced house in the Hamptons or Connecticut where my role would by 1950’s housewife, cooking, cleaning and shopping while on “vacation”. No, thanks. I can stay home, be the “momager” and continue all my invisible labor without paying for an expensive change of scene. After ruling out 99% of the world’s vacation options AND adding our fear of flying to the equation, we were left with resorts in the northeast within driving distance.
Once again, my husband went to work, making a detailed list of resorts. I sat and reviewed resort pictures on Google till they all blurred together into a collage of lobbies, restaurants, pools and hotel rooms. Finally, we narrowed down our choices to the Wentworth by the Sea in New Hampshire and The Cliff House in Ogunquit, Maine, and decided to spend 5 days at each resort. Both had pools, spas and lovely views and were reasonably “open” during the pandemic.
But “open” is not what it used to be. As soon as we arrived at Wentworth by the Sea, it was immediately clear that Covid 19 rules would completely change our vacation expectations. After 7 hours of driving, we were told that the resort’s main restaurant, Latitudes, had a two- hour waiting list and would close before we could be seated. Unfortunately, reservations could not be made in advance and the restaurant closed at 9 pm. Fortunately, we were able to sit down in the hotel’s casual restaurant where we enjoyed the very best and biggest lobster rolls I’ve ever eaten in my life.
Sadly, our first full day was filled with rain, fog and frustration. Howard was ready to drive back! Luckily, we had a dinner reservation in town and didn’t have to put our names on a waiting list for Saturday night. We did—however—have to make a reservation for the gym where we were limited to one hour and masks were mandatory. Rushing through our workouts while sweating into masks was not my idea of a satisfying exercise session, but Samantha and I tried be good sports about breathing hard into soggy masks.
Luckily the weather improved, and so did our spirits. We took an invigorating 4 mile power walk down to a beach. We even managed to find seats by the pool AND an umbrella after lunch (without setting alarms at 7 am to reserve deck chairs). Every morning (except the first), we ate the most amazing freshly baked blueberry muffins as part of a $13 “American Breakfast.” I can’t remember any breakfast in NYC (or at any hotel in Europe) in recent years for under $25. Before leaving for Maine, we treated ourselves to our once-a-year massage and finally began to relax. Howard was still on the phone with clients, but he worked one hour a day instead of ten.
Gradually, we all relaxed into a Covid19 safety routine that was easier in Maine than New Hampshire. Reservations were accepted and honored at all restaurants, but were not necessary at the well-equipped hotel gym. Still masked, Samantha and I were able to exercise in a gym with breathtaking ocean views whenever we felt like it for as long as we wanted…. (New York health club members may fondly recall those days). We also enjoyed eating socially distanced meals indoors overlooking the ocean, but without the chilly night air. Howard’s clients finally left him alone for long enough to read a book and take a nap by the pool!
There was no maid service at either resort. Toilet paper, towels and bottled water were delivered to our door only if we called the front desk. Inevitably, the rooms grew messy; the beds were wrinkled; and damp towels were left on the bathroom floor, but none of us cared. Signs and arrows were everywhere instructing hotel guests on social distancing and mask wearing. Instead of odd, it became commonplace to never see more than a stranger’s eyes…
The two biggest surprises? Howard bit into a blueberry muffin and discovered a piece of tooth with a gold filling. Horrified, the restaurant manager brought us a new “toothless” muffin and our breakfast was free. Later in the day, Howard realized that his molar was cracked and the gold filling belonged to him.
The second surprise was a lot more satisfying. Samantha followed all of our vacation rules AND the different Covid19 restrictions at both resorts with little or no complaint. She was a virtual angel. If only our life back home could remain equally peaceful, I’d imagine I had died and gone to heaven. Maybe there will be some carryover?
One thing I learned from this vacation is that there’s no escaping or forgetting the coronavirus. Covid19 continues to infect and kill people with no consistent combat strategy from one state to the next. As 2020 drifts to a close, the world continues to wait impatiently for a safe and effective vaccine.
Maybe next summer we will be able to rebook our trip to Spain and Portugal. In the meantime, our Covid19 vacation provided an invigorating and much-needed change from the tedium and confinement of our Manhattan apartment. To the restless, the trapped and the fearful urban homebodies, I would heartily recommend both resorts, but most especially, The Cliff House. With its welcoming staff, super comfy rooms, wonderful spa, and stunning views, we plan to return to The Cliff House even when foreign travel resumes.