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British tourists return to Portugal, liberated, but (mostly) wear masks

After going through a strict lockdown period in winter. And spring has seen the weather gradually reopen, but it’s bad. The first British tourists to Portugal since the country was in The “green list” for quarantine-free travel was delighted with the excitement of escape, although their journey was as uncomfortable as last summer.

“We just want to go anywhere other than London,” singer and songwriter Celeste Waite, 27, said as she climbed a hill in Lisbon’s Alfama district on Saturday with 22-year-old Sonny Hall. model and poet

Karen Kaur, 35, from Kent, England, England said: “So glad it̵

7;s finally back to normal” after she and 38-year-old Jay Singh sipped ginjina, a cherry liqueur from a street vendor in the large Praça da Figueira. city ​​center square

But British travelers expect their pre-plague travel experiences to find something different in Lisbon during the first weekend of reopening. Although the Portuguese capital still offers great food, museums, scenery and sights. Strict mask rules and curfews warn visitors that this will not be a free escape.

The opening weekend for Britons has previewed how broad international travel might be for others, including vaccinated Americans, when they are welcomed to Europe this summer. : A mixture of joy, relief and sometimes awkward interactions when cultures converge. Years of Experience Different Epidemics

Portugal has long been a favorite destination for UK tourists. With beautiful vacation destinations in Lisbon and Porto. and beachfront restaurants and hotels catering to British tourists in the seaside resort towns of Cascais and the Algarve, known for their charming beaches. All this is in phase three. Flight hours to Turismo de Portugal, the National Tourism Board said. More than 2.1 million visitors from the UK in 2019, the most from any country except Spain.

Portugal is currently one of the UK’s only tourist destinations. Earlier in May The United Kingdom has included Portugal in The “green list” of 12 countries and territories residents can travel from May 17 without quarantine for up to 10 days upon return. other green places Most of them do not accept tourists or are not the main destination.

Flight prices to Portugal soared after the announcement. But flying now means getting expensive. and sometimes The additional steps are confusing. by emphasizing the preliminary nature of the reopening of international travel services

Travelers are required to complete several forms and submit a negative PCR test less than 72 hours prior to their flight. before returning to England They had to take the test again within 72 hours of the flight. And proving that they booked a third test for a second day of testing back in the UK. Testing adds hundreds of dollars per person. For many overpriced flights

Some tourists on a British Airways flight from London on Saturday said the additional steps were painful. But they needed to leave the UK after a difficult winter. From December to the end of March The country faces one of the world’s toughest and longest nationwide lockdowns. Socializing is allowed only by walking in cold weather with another person. Pubs and restaurants are not open for alfresco dining until mid-April. And overnight travel within the country is not permitted until last week.

Anna De Pascalis, 23, said: “Nobody else is going. So I hung out with some friends before catching a flight to Lisbon with her mother, Julie De Pascalis. “Everyone was so jealous.”

After a winter of rising coronavirus cases, Portugal has had a few hundred cases and a single digit death toll per day since late March. But there is a disparity in vaccination against COVID-19: about 36 percent of Portuguese citizens have been vaccinated at least once. That compares to about 57 percent of people vaccinated in the UK.

Silvia Olivença, owner of Lisbon-based food tour company Oh! My Cod, says staying at home with tourists who don’t wear masks while eating doesn’t worry her. Although she heard concerns from other Portuguese that the return of foreigners could threaten Portugal’s outpatient numbers Even if tourists are negative before they can fly

“You definitely have people thinking about it,” she said. “I think people are pretty happy to see tourism come back.”

a month ago She will organize a tour once a week. Now up to 10 times a week, about 70 percent of her bookings come from the UK, she said. Portugal also welcomes visitors from the European Union.

For Sara Guerreiro, who owns a ceramic shop at the Feira da Ladra flea market in the winding Alfama district, last Saturday was a more normal parody. when looking out of the store She found that probably 10 percent of the pre-epidemic footfalls were twice a week at markets selling miscellaneous goods to local residents. Along with art and trinkets to tourists.

But she said Lisbon could use discretion in accepting tourists better because “it was too much before”.

Overall, only a drop of tourists has returned to Portugal so far. compared to the pre-virus group Only a handful of tourists can enjoy the city: without the crowds of other tourists.

At the splendid Praça do Comércio, an old square usually packed with visitors. There are only a few dozen. You can easily take wide-angle shots outside the popular landmark Belém Tower. at noon on a Sunday with no one else in it Row for custard tarts at nearby Pastéis de Belém. This is usually a work outside the home. Pass in a few minutes on a Sunday morning at Tasco do Chico, known for its live fado music. There is a bar one minute before the first Saturday night show.

In one lively scene reminiscent of pre-plague freedom. Tourists and locals converged on Saturday night in Barro Alto, where bars and restaurants crowded until 10:30 p.m. Curfew Nicci Howson, 65, said she was surrounded. Go with the Portuguese dancing in Cervejaria do Bairro, a neighborhood restaurant. It was her first time dancing outside in a year.

“You can see the elation on people’s faces and let it go,” she said.

At 10:30 p.m., when some Portuguese are just having their dinner at regular intervals, bars close and send crowds of people dancing and singing in the narrow streets. About five minutes later, the police remained on the nearby square of Luís de Camจัตุรัสes until 11:30 p.m., when officers dispersed in the group.

But during the day there weren’t many crowds to fight with.

Mark Boulle, 38, from Oxford, England, says he usually tries to avoid crowds while traveling. So this trip was a dream. when he traveled to Sintra Nearby towns with palaces and castles with postcards on Mondays. “In the first half of the day, I almost had the whole place to myself,” he said.

But he was dismayed by the widespread use of outdoor masks in Lisbon. This is a turn away from behavior in the UK where the government has never recommended wearing masks outside. And most people don’t. It is a source of tension for both visitors and Portuguese.

Outdoor mask use is a must in Portugal. Violators are allowed in some areas, including the beaches, and face fines at Castelo de São Jorge, an 11th-century castle with sweeping views of the city. Security guards roamed the outside area. Ordered a few tourists there to wear masks while standing apart from others. Booksellers at an open-air market in Baixa complain that tourists should abide by local attitudes and customs regarding masks. instead of bringing their own ideas abroad

But Mr Bull said he wanted sunlight to shine on his face. As he goes to buy tickets at the Jerónimos Monastery, a popular tourist destination, He remembered having a security guard stopping him before he could buy a ticket. by asking him to wear a mask

Mr Bull replied that he had asthma. And he couldn’t wear it because he had difficulty breathing. “That’s not true, but I just wanted to watch,” he said. “In England, you can always say that.” No luck, as security officials insisted.

Frederico Almeida, General Manager of the Albatross Hotel in the city of Cascais The nearby seaside town said he and his staff had to warn visitors from the UK of the requirement.

Despite these problems But he was happy to see British tourists again. He said they were the leading market for the area. And their return was swift. The 42-room hotel had an occupancy rate of about 20 percent two weeks ago, and now it’s 80 percent.

“In an instant in the last two weeks It was as if we had returned to normal,” he said. “It was wonderful.”

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