Day0 Quarantine to London – Negative is Positive

Buckle your seatbelts … this will be a long post.

Well let’s start out with the great news this morning that both our Day5 Covid tests came back negative and we are officially released from quarantine. Yay!

That means that this morning we boarded a bus for London Victoria. On the agenda included a few bits and bobs (Underground to our hotel to drop of bags, etc) and a short walk to St Paul’s Cathedral to make an unofficial start to our pilgrimage. (more later).

Bus to London

The weather is sunny and warm this morning and other than my back (which is acting up again) we are in good spirits but eager to get going. As I write we are still on the bus to London. It’s a 2-3/4hr ride, the last part of a quarantine-extended arrival to our first hotel.

I guess because I’ve been to London many times it doesn’t feel strange or exciting to be here. In some ways I’m used to it. It’s a wonderful city, full of history and art; it is very much alive and thriving; but it’s also almost too familiar. Still as we drive past the Fullers brewery and Cadbury chocolate adverts, trains and brick homes stained with vestiges of old coal soot, memories of past adventures fill my mind. … I’m in England.

Row Houses

<Later> Our first order of business after dropping our bags off at the Hotel was to head to St Paul’s Cathedral. Why? Well somehow it seems right. It seems fitting to start our experience (if not our actual walk) with a visit to St Paul’s London knowing that we will end at St Peter’s Rome.

The symbol of St Paul are the crossed swords. As a Citizen of Rome he was entitled to a more civilized martyrdom and was, by tradition, executed by beheading. The crossed keys, as I’ve already written are the symbol of Peter and thus Rome. So we will be walking from cross to cross as it were. Probably just me, but I find that kind of neat.

The next big event is one you will see repeated literally hundreds of times. Those of you that have been on the Camino will understand the emotion and impact of this moment. But at St Paul’s we received our first Stamp on our Pilgrim Credential. This beautifully clean and empty book will slowly get filled with stamps from Gites, Tourist Info Booths, Churches and Albergos as we March south. If you want to know more about the Credential etc, check out the History bits page.

Becoming Part of History

We arrived at St Paul’s in time for a Eucharist service and the Anglican priest (Chaplain Giles) called us forward just before the end of the service to recognize us and offer a pilgrims blessing. It was pretty surreal to stand there under the dome of St Paul’s and experience that, I must say.

After a bite to eat (we were pretty hungry) we swung back to the hotel to check in. And then made a quick purchase at an outdoor store (stopper for Allison’s hiking pole).

So here we are, winding down our Via Francigena Day0. Wow!

10 Cases

We had a nice seafood dinner near Covent Garden and then headed back to the hotel to crash and get ready for the start of our Via.

Margot at Parsons

Are you Ready? After all this build up are you ready to start on a pilgrimage? Are you tired of all the preliminaries. Well we are. Let’s GO!

The Thames

Pre-Flight Day0 – It’s Travel Day!!!

Despite the 90% chance of thunderstorms at 3pm (yep, our flight is scheduled for 3pm), we are excited to get this boat on the road so to say.

I did one last weight reduction exercise following a tradition from our previous Pilgrimages. In many ways it is also historical (and you guys know how much I like history). Shaving your head would help with cleanliness of course but was also a sign of humility and a Nazarite vow.

Lastly, enjoy this clip of our packing routine. Make sure you watch to the end and unmute your sound is on to enjoy the music.

Pre-Flight Day1 – Are we REALLY doing this?

So much has happened in the last 48hrs. This may be a long post.

First, Tuesday evening ended with some really great news. As some of you know, the Ferry from Dover to Calais no longer allows passengers on foot. After investigating several other options for getting to France (all more expensive and awkwardly long) we started looking an option of buying a bike in Dover and then just donating it to a charity in Calais. It seemed like such a nutty idea to buy a bike just to ride it on the ferry, but such is the tale of two pilgrims during Covid.

Well, it seems there is some major biking event the week we are to be in Dover and no one had a bike. But Tuesday evening I was able to purchase not one, but two used bikes from a chap in Dover via Facebook marketplace. Even better…he lives right on the High Street on our way into town.

It may sound odd, but just that one thing opened up so many doors for this trip. Almost more importantly, it closed several others.

Wednesday was a day of crossing off to-do items from our to-do lists. Covid day 2 and day 8 swabs were preordered (proof of purchase required before boarding the flight to the UK); Covid day 5 (early release scheme) booked; Pre-France Covid Swab kits purchased; Bus and Train tickets purchased – Heathrow to Christchurch – our location for the quarantine period; and emails sent to both St. Paul’s and Southwark Cathedral to ask for details about Evensong, Eucharist, and Pilgrim blessing opportunities. I felt very productive.

Wednesday was also the day of our pre-flight Covid Swab tests. This is the first in a series of 5 that we have to have. I’d preordered these through a link at the United Airlines site. It was run by Quest diagnostics via a Walmart drive through pharmacy window. Now to appreciate this next bit you need to know a detail.

The regulations for this pre-flight swab are that it be a PCR test and that it be taken no more than. 72 hours from when you land. However you must have your results in-hand before your board about 8hrs beforehand. So…follow this… we land in London at 6:30am Saturday. That’s 1:30am on the East Coast. Back off 72hrs from that and you get Wednesday at 1:30am as the earliest we could get the swab done. Well clearly no one is open then so let’s say you get the first available appointment on Wednesday (9:30am). Well that’s 8hrs subtracted from the 72 leaving 64hrs. Well, every place we could find would only guarantee 2-3 day turnaround for results starting from when the sample arrived at the lab. Ok so best case the sample taken on Wednesday morning gets to the lab Thursday morning.

Are you starting to see the problem inherent in the system?

Well we arrived at Walmart and the kind attendant leads us through taking the swabs and as we are depositing them into the box she says….Thank you…we will email your results to you in 3-5 days! “WHAT!!”- I replied. “Oh yes, she replied …it often takes that long.”

So in my reeling mind I’m unwinding three years of preparation and gobs of reservations and prepaid plans.

This video is rated PG since it shows me sticking a swab up my nose. Allison didn’t want hers posted…can you blame her?

But then she kindly whispers….” You didn’t hear me say this, but CVS will get you much quicker results”.

So we zoom home and immediately book two additional swab tests at CVS. There we repeat the routine with a statement …” you should have your results in 24-48hrs”. Doing some quick mental math that means we will get our results after our first leg to Dulles and before our check in for London……IF something doesn’t go wrong and of course assuming the results are Negative.

Story ends here….. Woke this morning to two texts from CVS with negative Covid results (less than 20hrs after the swabs were taken). What a great start to the day.

Folks….It looks like this is really happening!

Pre-Flight Day3 – Things are happening fast

Things are happening fast now. Our list of to-do’s is getting ticked off quickly and things are falling into place. But I’m eager to start walking. There will be days in the near future that I’ll undoubtedly wish for a down-day, but for now I just want to get moving. Anyone that is already following this blog is probably ready too!

All but the final sets of pre-Flight and Day 2, 5, 8 and pre-France Covid tests are booked and paid for ($660 worth of q-tips so far with two left to purchase). Crazy. But it’s done.

The ferry to France no longer allows foot traffic so we need to secure a bike somewhere in Dover just so we can ride onto the ferry. Facebook marketplace has been a good source of contacts.

I am going to produce and post a final gear review tonight both for my record and so that you will all have something to look at other than just my musings.

Hey check out the Maps Tab. Scroll to the bottom and you’ll find an link to an interactive map of our intended route. It’s google maps so you can zoom right in. If anyone knows how to get it to google earth instead please let me know.

So…in the meantime…what questions do you have?

Pre-Flight Day6 – Permethrin Party

Hard to believe that we’re less than a week away from our trip and the date may yet change (but maybe only by a day). Due to some funny math involving Day0 vs Day1 of quarantine in the UK we might end up moving up our flight by a day.

We’re still heading out this week and today’s news from the EU was encouraging. Germany (who has been pressing for tighter entry rules for travelers coming from the UK) is now considering an accommodation for those with two jabs (like us).

Meanwhile today was our Permethrin party. We had about 15 folks come by to share a pot luck. Each person brought either an English, French, Swiss or Italian dish. It was beautiful weather with some good friends…but I ate too much! 🙂

Permethrin Party

Also the very last items came in the mail (an underwear option for me and some classic keys). I was hoping the underwear would be lighter but they were identical so I’ll not likely bring them.

The keys are a bit more difficult to explain. On our previous Spanish Caminos we brought small wooden crosses to hand out as gifts to those who played a special part in our journey. This year we were given keys. Keys are the symbol of St Peter in Rome.

This comes from the Bible in Matthew (see below). Unfortunately the keys we were given were kind of heavy but I loved the idea and symbolism. So I found some cool looking lighter ones. If you’re following our journey look for these keys to be part of our story.

Our Keys

Matthew 16:13-19 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do the people say the “Son of Man” is? They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others say Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?”, he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

Pre-Flight Day7 – The UK it is


7 Seven Days til we fly out to London. We made the decision to forego the easy/safe option and take a chance on the UK.

It was a real relief to get that behind us. Now the flurry of activity begins as we make our final plans.

Garbage pickup and internet service is postponed; mowing of the grass scheduled, mail forwarded, savings transferred to the international debit card, freezer nearly empty. There is so much to do! But it’s getting real now.

Oh! And guess who came home from Grad School for the weekend? Bonus!

Pre-Flight Day10 – Decisions decisions

<Allison> To walk in England or not to walk in England? The UK is certainly putting a kink in our original plans. The 10 days of quarantine has yet to be lifted. What a pain! France and Italy are welcoming US visitors with no quarantine so…in the next couple of days we need to decide if England is a go or no go. If not, we will travel directly to France and begin our adventure there. Let’s not forget to mention that this also affects our dates of travel too. Exactly how many flights have we booked so far??? Guess away! The answer is yet to be determined.

Pre-Flight Day11 – How do I count this down?

From the mind of Mark

I’m not entirely sure how to count this one down. Normally I’d count down from the moment we take our first step, but the Covid preparations are so much of this trip that I feel like the flight over (even if it just ends up in a 10day quarantine) is kind of the start.

None of you probably want to read this but it’s kind of a log for posterity. I remember a quote from a war movie that went something like “The most dangerous times are the beginning and end of the war.” I think this is true as the world sank into and is emerging out of Covid. Everything seems fraught with uncertainty. Rumors of potential relaxations of rules and tightening of restrictions seem to come flooding in each day and, although I know better, I can’t stop researching. Haha. I’m addicted to preparation.

Small steps as we had Dylan come and “test”-cut our grass for the first time. He will be taking care of our lawn while we are away. My large “cylinder of life” noodle I bought as a lighter weight version of the soft foam one is probably a bust. It is too rigid. And finally I wrote up the Permithrin Party invite. These are al nits that will mean little to others but are about the only items to write about on an otherwise normal Monday.

“I️ am sure that God keeps no one waiting unless he sees that it is good for him to wait.”

C.S. Lewis

Pre-Flight Day12 – Playing with technology

By Allison

Sunday, the day of rest is perfectly situated after a long day of hiking. A joyful day beginning with praising the Lord and worship with so many friends. This afternoon we chatted with Madeline about our upcoming adventure. Seeing maps with our walking routes is inspiring and chatting about transportation and accommodations makes the trip real! Not that it was fake before mind you. This evening it is time to begin getting comfortable with posting and learning how this app works. Have to say, I am not feeling the love of technology at the moment. But practice makes perfect…after a bit of frustration.

Modern hiking, almost always connected.