Those living abroad are putting up Insta posts of their vacations to destinations including Florence, Italy(Illustration: Aparna Ram)
Those living abroad are putting up Insta posts of their vacations to destinations including Florence, Italy(Illustration: Aparna Ram)

Spectator by Seema Goswami: Break time

Taking a vacation amidst the Coronavirus pandemic? Here’s where you can go…
Hindustan Times | By Seema Goswami
PUBLISHED ON AUG 23, 2020 06:48 AM IST

I don’t know about you but I must confess to being consumed with envy when I look at the Instagram posts of those of my friends who live abroad. Here’s one who is holidaying in Florence with his wife and adult children, traipsing through near-empty museums, and feasting on the most amazing Italian food. Okay, so they have to wear masks while out in public, but frankly that’s a small price to pay for being able to finally get out of home and explore the world beyond your own four walls.

There’s another group of friends, who live in London but are currently coasting along the Amalfi coast, enjoying the azure skies and the indigo waters. And then, there’s my friend who is a chef and runs restaurants in both India and abroad, who is wandering the length and breadth of the Ligurian coastline, trying out the local cuisine as she seeks inspiration for her new menus. (Yes, I see it too: it seems Italy is the destination of choice these days, even though it was one of the countries to be hit hardest by the Coronavirus pandemic.)

I have no shame in admitting to travel envy. In fact, after five months (and counting) spent in my home, it seems an entirely reasonable reaction to me. But given that jetting off to my favourite Italian holiday spots (Venice is top of the list, though these days – after bingeing on the Godfather trilogy – I am dreaming of exploring Sicily as well) is out of the question, with the quarantine rules in both countries being what they are, I am setting my sights nearer home.

And when I say ‘nearer home’ I mean that quite literally. There is no way that I would risk getting on a plane right now, so any holiday destinations I consider have to be within driving distance. And I am guessing that that is the preferred choice of most other people as well. Some of my Mumbai friends, for instance, are heading off to their holiday homes in Alibaug, Khandala and Mahabaleshwar, to escape the incessant rain and flooding in the Maximum City, while the more adventurous are even planning to drive all the way down to Goa. All that verdant post-monsoon scenery will probably act as a balm on their bruised and battered souls.

Those of us who live in Delhi have a slightly more diverse group of destinations to choose from. If you want a resort just a short hop, skip and jump away from the city, you could drive to Manesar or Neemrana, to enjoy some stunning architecture, acres of manicured gardens, and perhaps a round or two of golf (that’s one sport where social distancing is no problem at all). Sadly, going to Agra – even though it’s just a little further afield – is more complicated for now because of the quarantine rules imposed by the Uttar Pradesh government.

While you can slip your mask off when you’re relaxing by the poolside, always remember to keep your guard up

But if you are willing to drive for another couple of hours, then Rajasthan is just the place for you. The obvious stops are, of course, Jaipur and Udaipur, with their beautiful palace hotels and other heritage properties, but there are plenty of smaller, scenic cities to visit as well. Yes, it will be hot and muggy, and you won’t really be able to hit the shopping districts without a mask in place. But if you choose your hotel well, you can enjoy a break away from home, swim laps in the pool, sip on a cocktail, and enjoy the sinful pleasures of room service.

If the thought of the sweltering heat in Rajasthan is putting you off, well then, the hills are the right place for you. The good news is that if you have a Covid negative test (which you have to upload on the government site before you head out) then you don’t have to quarantine in such states as Uttarakhand. So, you can drive down to any hill resort you choose, and enjoy the misty mountain air, go for bracing walks (or treks, if that is your thing) and enjoy some Pahari food chased down by a nice glass of wine or a peg of smoky whiskey.

But if you do decide to head out for a holiday in the midst of this pandemic, then do keep a few rules in place for a safe vacation.

First off, if at all possible, choose smaller properties that have fewer guests in-house. That will ensure that your interaction with strangers is kept to a minimum. Before booking into a hotel or an Airbnb, get all the information that you can about their disinfection and cleaning policies. If you have the slightest doubt on that score, then look elsewhere. Make sure that the hotels you book into have adopted contactless service so that you don’t have face time with staff as far as possible.

And most importantly, just because you are on holiday, don’t skip on the usual precautions to keep safe in the times of Corona. Keep your mask on in public areas, keep washing your hands, and observe social distancing. Remember, this is a vacation from real life, not a departure from it. You may be on holiday, but the virus is still out, working hard at trying to infect you.

So while you can slip your mask off when you’re relaxing by the poolside, always remember to keep your guard up.

Journalist and author Seema Goswami has been a columnist with HT Brunch since 2004

Spectator appears every fortnight

From HT Brunch, August 23, 2020

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