Coronavirus Diary Day WTFK: October 9, 2021

How I Celebrated the End of a Pandemic

The headline might be clickbait. But really guys, I’m vaccinated, I’m negative, and borders are open. Oh, Europe, how I missed you!

The Hubs and I were honored to receive an invitation to a very special wedding held in Italy on October 1. To mark the end of a pandemic, we extended our trip to include Spain and Portugal. While I could happily turn this post into a full report of all the beautiful things we saw and delicious food we ate, let’s continue the momentum of our Coronavirus Diary, shall we?

But before we start, here are some universal notes:

Every airport we visited made constant public announcements that they were certified by some international organization for their cleanliness and sanitation processes during Covid. Who are these organizations, and more importantly, why? Shouldn’t all airports just be clean and sanitized anyway, particularly during a pandemic? What does it take to receive such a certification, and how much does it cost?

Every airplane/airline required facemasks through the duration of the flight, despite the fact that every person boarded with a negative Covid test result. I don’t get it, but look, if it means I receive another stamp in my passport, I’ll wear a goddam Teletubby costume.


To arrive in Spain, the Hubs and I paid $150 each to receive negative PCR Covid tests from 15-to-Know, a drive-up testing facility near our home in Pennsylvania. That’s double the price from April, when we flew to Jamaica for a friend’s birthday celebration. Why did the price increase? Did the tests suddenly become more expensive to produce? Or did more people become comfortable traveling and thus, travelers are being taken advantage of by enterprising businesses?

I’ll also mention this was my second negative Covid test from 15-to-Know in the span of a week, because Ryan suspected he had Covid a few days before my trip. Ryan and I had spent a lot of time together, so to be safe, both of us got tested so that we wouldn’t spread Covid in the grocery store. I like to think we’re responsible like that. Anyway, that required the lesser priced simple Antigen test at $50 each. And we were both negative.

Total Cost of Covid Tests before leaving the USA = $400

To get to Spain, The Hubs and I were flying TAP-Air Portugal with a brief layover in Lisbon and a final destination of Valencia. The night before our trip, TAP-Air Portugal cancelled our itinerary and didn’t bother to notify us. While attempting to complete an online check-in, we made this horrible discovery, which resulted in literally *hours* of phone calls. Long story short, we made the necessary changes, which didn’t affect our trip *that* much, although our final destination became Madrid, which then required us to drive 4 hours to Alicante. A small glitch.

And why was our original flight cancelled? Guys, these international airplanes are maybe half full, if that. Traveling these days requires jumping through a million hoops, so who wants to book anything? The airlines are forced to cancel flights because, and this is no joke, our jumbo jet from Newark to Portugal had mostly *empty* rows.

Anyways, we arrived in Lisbon on time, but to switch to our flight to Madrid, we needed to wait in line for over an hour in passport control and then re-check our luggage. We made our next flight, thankfully, but let’s talk about that hour-long wait, where we were herded like cattle into tightly-wound lines of people arriving from who-knows-how-many foreign originations. While all the placards cried out for 3 meters of social distancing, we stood shoulder to shoulder, all sporting facemasks, negative Covid tests, and vaccination cards. In previous times, I may have called this a Delta Variant Cesspool, but come on guys.

In Madrid, we were spritzed with hand sanitizer (I don’t know why this is so funny to me), all of our documents were checked again, and we were sent along our merry way.

We spent the next several days exploring beautiful Alicante, eating, drinking, sightseeing, and laying on beaches. It was glorious. Here are my pandemic observations. Spain had just lifted the outdoor mask mandate right before our arrival, so while a few people enjoyed the fresh air while donning facial coverings, most chose to go without. Indoor spaces operated much like those in Pennsylvania. Masks are required everywhere, including restaurants and bars, where one must cover their mouth and nose until they are seated. They do not enforce a vaccine passport policy, which I don’t know why I had expected they would, but I carried mine with me just in case.

To be honest, I felt pretty much like the social protocols in Spain were very similar to those in America, right down to the folks with their noses peeking out.


To arrive in Italy, The Hubs and I paid roughly $50 each to receive negative antigen tests from IMED Elche, a full blown hospital near Alicante. While parking was all but impossible, the actual testing process was as efficient and friendly as I’ve ever seen. We made our appointments online. The appointments were exactly on schedule. Two nurses simultaneously swabbed us. We received our results via email in about 20 minutes. Thanks, Spain! You’ll always be my favorite destination.

New Total Cost of Covid Tests = $500

Getting off our flight and arriving in Naples required *neither* the display of our newly negative Covid tests nor the many spritzes of hand sanitizer. Quite frankly, the Italians couldn’t have cared less who we were or where we came from. We hired a black car to take us from the airport to Positano, where the wedding would take place. Our driver, knowing we’d just arrived from Spain and therefor had tested negative, told us that he was vaccinated and that we could remove our masks and relax. We later hired him again, because not only did he expertly navigate the cliffs of the Amalfi Coast without me losing my fucking marbles, but the dude possessed *common sense,* which seems to be an elusive personality trait these days.

In Positano, we freely explored without face coverings. Indoors, we were required to wear masks, but to be honest, half the time I didn’t. (In his defense, The Hubs did.) At the wedding, they had a check-in station, where guests were asked to show their vaccination cards, but nobody did.

In conclusion, I felt the protocols in Italy were more relaxed than those in Pennsylvania. I heard many people say things like, “We’re 80% vaccinated and our rates are low” and “We’re living with it now.” Who knew the Italians were so smart?


To arrive in Portugal, The Hubs and I paid roughly $50 each to receive negative antigen tests at a local Positano pharmacy, a 5-minute walk from our hotel. We made our appointments online. We waited about 10 minutes past our appointment time. We were swabbed just inside the front door of the pharmacy. And we received our results about an hour later via email.

New Total Cost of Covid Tests = $600

While the Italians were lax to let us into their country, we encountered quite a different situation in Rome. To be fair, the Rome Airport is a notorious shit show, so there’s that. But the number of times and stations where we needed to show our negative Covid tests was downright combative, almost as if they preferred we wouldn’t leave. (And can you blame them?) But eventually, they shipped us out, facemasks and all.

Lisbon was amazing. I would say the protocols were similar to Spain, and therefor to the USA. However, we learned upon our arrival that these were *new* protocols. Portugal had just – the day before! – reopened their bars and clubs and lifted their outdoor mask restrictions on October 1. On our first night out in Lisbon, the Portuguese were quite literally dancing in the streets. You never saw a happier bunch.

Home Sweet Home

To leave Portugal and return to the USA, The Hubs and I once again needed to receive negative antigen tests. These took place in a hospital at the tippy top of a long, winding hill. We arrived tired and sweaty, but for about $50 each, we very carefully placed our feet on numbered blue decals separated by 3 meters and moved forward in an aggressively organized fashion until a pretty young nurse shoved a swab so far up my right nostril that I thought it might come out my ear. That was the absolute fucking worst Covid test I’ve experienced in my actual life. (Two years ago, would that last sentence have made any sense?)

Anyways, the good folks at the Lisbon Airport let us leave without much fanfare, and 7 ½ hours later (did they move New York?), we landed on American soil. After 10 days and $700 worth of Covid tests, I got to rest my head in my very own bed and patiently await the onslaught of jetlag.

I’m not complaining, believe me. I’m so incredibly grateful for the ability to travel again, for a husband who does all the work, and most importantly, for good health. If this isn’t the end of a pandemic, I don’t know what is.

Final Cost of Covid Tests = $700

Daily Dose of Grilled Mediterranean Octopus = Priceless

PS - To see photos of this most epic European trip, visit my Instagram @shazzle99


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