Ramsgate was a small fishing town until its harbour was built and bestowed with Royal Status by King George VI, when it became the place for sea-bathing and promenading. But these days this faded Georgian seaside resort is quiet. All too quiet.
Not many people are as synonymous with a place as Rick Stein is with Padstow. Dotted around the harbour of this quaint fishing town, the celebrity chef boasts four restaurants, a cookery school, a deli, a gift shop, a fishmongers and a patisserie – alongside an abundance of luxury rooms across eight different properties. Rick’s son Jack, who is chef director at his dad’s restaurants, took some time out of his busy morning of prep at the flagship Seafood Restaurant to tell me how optimistic they are – especially after today’s vaccine approval news. “Although it’s a strange situation to be in, we’re hopeful about the coming weeks,” said Stein. “We’re really fortunate that Cornwall has managed to keep its cases low. We’re also fortunate that we’re now in Tier 1, but I’m well aware of the horrifying hospitality situation in bigger cities right now.” “We have to try and take the positives and make the most of the situation,” Stein continued. We’ve been working on Rick Stein at Home boxes which have had an incredible take-up, and we will 100 per cent continue with those even once we get back to normal. Cornwall has become the number one staycation destination for a lot of people, which is great news for us going forward.” Padstow is clearly making the most of the Tier 1 placement. Since news broke of the town becoming just one of three lowest tier English destinations, table bookings have been flooding in, while their rooms are also ready for visitors looking for a festive getaway. I’m staying in a cosy room above the restaurant where extra precautions are in place to make guests feel comfortable, including health checks, additional sanitation procedures and socially distanced breakfasts. This week, those aforementioned guests would normally be flooding in for the annual Christmas Festival, which takes over Padstow’s pretty harbour. As I write this, the jolly sounds and festive smells of a Christmas market should be illuminating the atmospheric streets, but it’s quieter than I anticipated – even with the festival cancellation.
Ahead of me, a pair of black-and-white spaniels sniffed their way around luggage trolleys and legs in the queue for Air France’s bag drop. Behind me, a cluster of families were unpacking and repacking their suitcases – victims of the baggage allowance rules for their respective airlines. It felt almost like a normal morning in Heathrow’s Queen’s Terminal, aside from all the masks and Covid-era signage. It wasn’t normal, of course, as today marked the return of international leisure travel for people in England, who have been under the Government’s non-essential travel ban since November 5. With flights leaving for Dubai, Singapore, Hong Kong and plenty more destinations, the world opened up again to travellers – even those without a ‘reasonable excuse’ for leaving the country. But, despite this good news for eager holidaymakers and suffering travel businesses, there was little jubilation at Terminal 2 this morning, and certainly no sign of the mass exodus I saw on the last day before lockdown on November 4.
A leading hotel in Cornwall has announced that it will remain closed until March next year, despite the county being the only place in mainland England subject to the most relaxed tier 1 coronavirus restrictions. Talland Bay Hotel, a 20-bedroom luxury property near Polperro in south Cornwall, will be shut throughout the winter, citing civic responsibility as the reason. Explaining his decision, owner Dr Kevin O’Sullivan, a retired doctor and former medical director of a vaccine-producing pharmaceutical company, said: “I believe the most responsible thing to do is to remain closed until the situation becomes clearer and safer. The uncertainty and unpredictability that has been cast upon this trying year has certainly contributed to our decision. But since the announcement of the new tier system there has been much soul-searching and scenario-building to try to understand the consequences of every course of action we might take. “Although Cornwall has been placed in tier 1, we are not yet out of the woods. In Wales, where their lockdown ended only 17 days ago, we’re seeing a renewed spike,” he said. The best hotels in Cornwall Dr O’Sullivan also pointed to the fact that even tier 1 measures greatly impact hospitality businesses’ ability to function as they would like to. He stated: “We do not feel that, under the current circumstances, we can't offer the level of service that we want to provide or that our guests have a right to expect. Entertainment and delicacies are normally prevalent here throughout the Christmas and New Year period. Yet with all the restrictions in place, we would not be able to operate in a manner that our guests have all become so accustomed to.” Under tier 1 ‘medium alert’ restrictions, the ‘rule of six’ applies indoors and outdoors, while pubs and restaurants must shut at 11pm. Somewhat confusingly, visitors from tier 2 locations must follow the rules from the area they came from, meaning that overnight stays with anyone outside of your household or support bubble are not allowed.
“Prosecco?” asked my friend Erin, as we waited in Heathrow for a flight to Dubai last week. I’m not usually the sort to celebrate a flight with bubbles, but in this instance, it seemed fitting. A toast to my first long-haul flight since the start of this year’s pandemic.
Sufficient testing capacity and hospital beds must be available for resorts to open under new rules
The aviation industry is expected to play a crucial role in the distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine, using cargo capabilities on board passenger flights – and it's already preparing for the task, says the boss of Virgin Atlantic Cargo. “Throughout the pandemic, we’ve been working hard to transport essential items all over the world,” Dominic Kennedy, Managing Director, tells Telegraph Travel. “At the start of the year, we used our passenger planes to import essential PPE to Britain from Asia, and then the focus shifted to transporting testing kits. “Now, we will be using our aircraft to carry vaccine drugs – the next chapter of this unprecedented year.” The Pfizer vaccine, which has now been approved for use in Britain, is of course no ordinary cargo item: it must be kept at -80 degrees. “The temperature control is a challenge not just for us, but for every airline,” says Kennedy. “It’s not the act of keeping it cold that’s the challenge, but the sheer quantity of dry ice that’s required: by weight, you need five times as much dry ice than vaccine – so for every 200kg of vaccine, that’s 1,000kg of dry ice.” Dry ice is the solid form of carbon dioxide, which is a restricted substance on board aircraft. It's a logistical complication for airlines, but not an insurmountable one. “The maximum quantity of dry ice our aircraft can currently carry is 1,000kg,” explains Kennedy. “So while everybody would love to fill every inch of a cargo hold with vaccine, unfortunately it’s not quite that simple. “But we have streamlined the process, and have also introduced a new ‘Pharma Secure’ service for transportation – with a 24/7 support team, automatic live status updates and periodical integrity checks [on the drug].” Until this year, cargo accounted for just 10 per cent of Virgin Atlantic’s turnover, but while passengers have stayed grounded it has fulfilled a vital role in the transportation of goods. “For the first time in the airline’s history, we are operating cargo-only flights,” says Kennedy. “It is a testament to the hard work of our teams that we have completely re-engineered our cargo business into a successful freight-only operation, enabling businesses to transport critical supplies around the world.” “We used to be limited by passenger traffic: we could only send cargo on routes that were being served by passenger flights. But now, cargo business is leading the way – and we are flying to destinations that we’ve never flown to or from before.”
Portugal relies on British holidaymakers. We are the country’s biggest single visitor group: 2.5 million of us travelled to Portugal in 2019 and 35,000 UK nationals live there. In 2020, arrivals from the UK have plummeted by up to 70 per cent. Since the UK advisory against non-essential travel first came into force in March, Britons have had just three weeks in which they could visit Portugal without having to quarantine on their return. The country needs unimpeded movement between the two nations more than ever. “[Our visitor numbers] went back 25 years, to the numbers of 1995, which is terrible, especially because we have 10 times the number of companies [in the tourism industry] that we had then,” explained Luis Araujo, president of the National Tourism Board of Portugal, told Telegraph Travel. Given that Portugal’s Covid-19 infection rate is now sitting at 308.7 per 100,000 residents, it will have to rely, for the time-being, on the successful implementation of the UK Government’s ‘test to release’ scheme. This will see quarantine times for arrivals from countries without a travel corridor, such as Portugal, slashed from 14 days to five, with a negative test result. By next year’s peak summer tourist season there is a hope that the vaccine will have helped travel to return to somewhat normal. However, for Britons, a new barrier will apply: the end to the transition period.
The Welsh Government's cabinet is meeting today to decide on the country’s new border rules, as England emerges from lockdown. England’s lockdown ended at midnight and travel restrictions have been lifted on anyone living in Tiers 1 or Two – this means holidays in England (barring Tier 3 areas) are back on the cards for English residents, so long as people follow social distancing rules. The Welsh Government originally said it would update its travel policy in light of the changes in England. However, no announcement was made on this matter on Monday, as initially expected, and Welsh tourism businesses have spoken out against the lack of clear instructions on whether they should cancel or confirm bookings from English customers. As it stands, only people who live in Wales can stay overnight at a hotel or other accommodation. People travelling to Wales from elsewhere in the UK, or from abroad, must have a reasonable excuse to enter and remain in Wales, which does not include a holiday. Visit Wales states that Welsh residents are only allowed to share holiday accommodation (whether hotels, tents, caravans or self-catering options) with the people they live with. Some hotels in Wales are already closing their doors due to a lack of clarity on whether they will be able to allow English holidaymakers to visit, or not, in December. 'Wild, scenic and unfairly victimized' – a postcard from a Welsh island braced for more bans Pale Hall Hotel, near Bala, has closed its doors until December 17 and has spoken out against the ambiguous measures. They said on Twitter: "Friday we get an announcement about an announcement, then Monday we are told that they will announce travel restrictions later this week. "If I ran my business or my school when I was a headteacher like this I would go bust and be sacked." On Monday, the Welsh Government announced a ban on the sale of alcohol in restaurants and pubs, and for all hospitality businesses to close at 6pm, causing uproar among publicans. Mark Drakeford, the Welsh First Minister, revealed on Monday that hospitality venues including bars and cafés would have to switch to takeaway services after 6pm. The blanket restrictions are less draconian than those imposed on Tier 3 areas of England but more restrictive than the rules for Tier 1 and Tier 2 areas, which account for more than half the population. It comes just three weeks after Wales ended its 17-day "firebreak" lockdown, with the Welsh government arguing that further restrictions were necessary amid a spike in cases among those aged under 25. The new regulations, which come into force on December 4, will also require cinemas, bowling alleys and other indoor entertainment venues forced to shut their doors until the rules are reviewed on December 17.
While bookings for week-long ski holidays continue to struggle, operators are seeing an increase in demand for long-term rentals
It’s been a turbulent year for holidaymakers, but thankfully literature can transport you anywhere. Michael Kerr rounds up his top travel books for Christmas. 1. Greenery: Journeys in Springtime by Tim Dee The travel book I enjoyed most this year was one the publisher classified as “Nature Writing”. It is, partly. But leaving it there is like saying that Wordsworth was a gardener and Springsteen is a harmonica player. Tim Dee can write brilliantly, beautifully, about anything, and Greenery – which is travel and memoir and poetry and music and human as well as natural history – is perhaps his best book yet. Having noted that spring moves north at about the speed of swallow flight, he tracks the season and its migratory birds all the way from South Africa to Scandinavia. His book is about how spring works on people as well as birds, animals and plants; about the possibility of life growing from death. In the midst of a pandemic, it couldn’t be more timely. (Jonathan Cape, £18.99) 2. To The Lake by Kapka Kassabova Born in Bulgaria, raised in New Zealand and now living in Scotland, Kapka Kassabova is a citizen of the world, but she can never escape the pull of the southern Balkans. With Border (2017), which won the Stanford Dolman prize, she focused on the land where Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey run into one another. This time, with To the Lake she turns her attention to the two oldest lakes in Europe, Ohrid and Prespa, which nature united but nation states have divided. A fine book in its own right, it also serves as an excellent follow-up or companion volume to Border; part of a sustained examination of the effects of fences on the ground and in the head and their enduring legacies. (Granta, £14.99) 3. Fifty Miles Wide by Julian Sayarer Julian Sayarer has been around the world by bike and across America as a hitchhiker; his account of the latter journey, Interstate, won him the Stanford Dolman prize in 2017. In Fifty Miles Wide, he’s back on two wheels in Israel and Palestine, weaving from the ancient hills of Galilee, along the walled-in Gaza Strip and down to the Bedouin villages of the Naqab Desert. He talks to Palestinian cyclists and hip-hop artists; to Israeli soldiers training for war and a lawyer who had a leading role in peace talks. Sayarer is committed to the Palestinians’ cause, but his book conveys powerfully what life is like for people on both sides of “the world’s most entrenched impasse”. At the same time, it’s full of free spirits, and the joys of freewheeling. (Arcadia Books, £9.99) 4. The Museum of Whales You Will Never See by A Kendra Greene “If you plant a tree,” they say in Iceland, “you’ll get more trees in the same place.” This country of 330,000 people has more than 265 museums and public collections, almost all established in the past 20 years. There’s one of stones, collected by a woman on her daily walks, one of mammal penises and one of sea monsters (or, at least, of the stories told by people who claim to have seen those monsters). Greene, an American writer and artist who has herself worked in museums, looks into what the collections tell us not just about the curators but about their country. Her wonderfully quirky book is a reminder of “all the things we might hear, if only we would ask”. (Granta, £14.99)
British cruise line Saga Cruises has become the first cruise operator to be awarded Shield+ accreditation from Lloyd’s Register for coronavirus risk management – the highest category of health assurance granted by the maritime safety experts. The accreditation recognises enhanced safety procedures put in place to reduce the risk of infection, transmission and a subsequent coronavirus outbreak on board two Saga ships: Spirit of Discovery and the line’s brand new ship Spirit of Adventure, which is due to set sail for the first time in May 2021. Speaking exclusively to The Telegraph, Nick Stace, Saga’s chief executive of travel, said: “We want to create the safest place in the world to see the world, and that’s what I think we can do with this [the Shield+ accreditation].” “I can’t see how you could be safer, than to be on one of our ships. We test five days in advance of coming on board, we then ask for five days of isolation and our customers, I know, will support us on that. “We then have a sealed car, with a driver who has been tested, come and pick you up and take you to the port where you’re tested again. On board, you’ll find social distancing measures and an isolation wing, should any problems occur. I can’t think you would find anywhere, other than the Sahara desert, that is safer.” Mr Stace is confident that, come Easter, land-locked Britons will be able to take to the water once again. He told Telegraph Travel: “I bet my mortgage on it. Really I feel very confident and the reason why I feel so confident, is that we have done everything and more that the government asked of us.”
There’s no denying that this year has been incredibly tough on the hospitality industry. Between two national lockdowns, furlough schemes to navigate, and unprecedented loss of earnings, it’s a wonder so many restaurants have survived the pandemic, and indeed there are many that haven’t. And yet a small collection have managed to turn a terrible situation into an opportunity. Ivan Tisdall-Downes and Imogen Davis have done just this. The pair opened Native in 2016, after spending their post-university years selling jams and chutneys at London food markets. Having grown up in rural Northamptonshire with parents who owned a falconry and championed nose-to-tail eating before it was fashionable, Imogen had always been comfortable working with game and wild food. She and Ivan soon made a name for themselves on the food market circuit with their wood pigeon kebab, before the opportunity to open a site in London’s Neal’s Yard presented itself. With a tiny budget and a government grant, the pair opened Native to great success, capturing a zeitgeist for beautiful-looking farm-to-fork dishes celebrating local producers and seasonality. Native later moved to Southwark Street near Borough Market and remained there until Covid came along and made the concept untenable. “We were planning to reopen Native, and had plans for a second London site, but then lockdown happened and we couldn’t do either,” says Imogen. With no outside space and only a small number of tables inside the restaurant it wasn’t really set up for social distancing, and so the pair made the difficult decision to close. “We were kitchen-less for the first time in four years and it made us take stock and reassess what we wanted to do. Then out of the blue in August, we were offered an opportunity to run a restaurant on Osea, an island off the coast of Essex. We jumped at it. I’d never even been to Essex before!”
To celebrate the festive season our 2020 Travel Advent Calendar is offering readers the chance to win a £200 holiday voucher every day until Christmas. It has been a year to forget for both travellers and holiday providers, but thanks to positive news about a Covid vaccine there's good reason to be optimistic about 2021. So to help you book that much-needed escape, and to give a boost to the beleaguered industry, we are giving away nearly £5,000 worth of vouchers to spend with members of AITO, The Specialist Travel Association. To enter the prize draw for today's £200 voucher, all you need to do is answer three questions about Kenya, and leave your contact details, using the form below. One winner, chosen at random from all correct entries, will receive a £200 AITO holiday voucher to spend with the tour operator of their choice. Furthermore, you are free to enter every daily competition, giving you 24 chances to win. See the full terms and conditions. Day 1: Questions about Sweden
Much of the Asian continent remains closed to British holidaymakers, but there is a small list of countries allowing us in. There are also a number of countries that British nationals can return from, without needing to go into a quarantine on return to the UK. Last week, the Government added Bhutan, Mongolia and Timor-Leste to the 'travel corridors' list. There remain, however, significant obstacles for entry to these and many other travel corridor countries. There are still more travel corridors that could be added on the continent. As part of our Unlock Long Haul campaign, we are urging the Government to lift restrictions to destinations with a lower Covid rate than the UK (that’s the vast majority of them, in the case of the Asian continent). We’ve had some early success, with eight new corridors announced on November 12, eight on November 19 and a further ten on November 26. Aside from our travel corridors, there are 20 Asian and Middle Eastern countries that are open to British holidaymakers. On the map below, the green countries are open to British holidaymakers and have a travel corridor, the orange countries are open to British holidaymakers but do not have a travel corridor, and the red countries are closed to British holidaymakers. Many countries that are open to British holidaymakers require a negative PCR test certificate on arrival, and may have quarantine or further testing measures – these can change at short notice, so check before you book.
Islands are places of transformation. The tides undo and remake them. Their winds blow right through you. There is the hope that only being surrounded entirely by sea brings: the ever-changing light and open horizons, the fierce night storms and still mornings. Islands remind us of nature’s unerring constancy and its sudden, brilliant unpredictability. In pandemic times, they are the ultimate refuge.
Travellers love cities. Metropolises powered the Grand Tour, the Interrail era and the no-frills flight age. Half a day in a museum is the tourism experience par excellence. City restaurants get the bulk of Michelin stars and attract the most innovative chefs. City hotels get the most stars, the biggest suites, the most glamorous guests. The pandemic put a block on urban adventures. That was bad enough. But then the armchair Nostradamus began to announce that the end of the city was nigh. No sooner had London’s Waterloo and City line stopped running at the start of the first lockdown than the crystal balls came out. Forecasters were predicting that commuting as we know and loathe it had ended; theatres and galleries would never recover; homeworking would turn once great metropolises into ghost towns; all the Prets would have to close. I don’t think so. Sure, real changes had an impact on some of the cities travellers love most. Paris’s bookshops were forced to beg for charity. Buenos Aires’ empty cafés struggled to survive; some steakhouses shut their doors for good. The fashion boutiques of Milan had last season’s garbs in their window displays; designers went virtual, buyers stayed home. But, at the same time Venice had a spell without overtourism, and its canals were cleaner. There was room on Tokyo’s trains and New York’s subway. Cleaner air and blue skies everywhere allowed us all a breather and a break from routine. Some of the changes wrought by Covid-19 will be permanent. Some will pass and be forgotten. But the pandemic is accelerating so many trends that it’s definitely going to change the shape and feel of our metropolises. While there are those who will lament the passing of just about anything, there is also room for hope and optimism. Indeed, the pandemic has given us a peek at how things might look in 2030, 2040 and beyond. The future city will have its Louvres, its cobbled lanes, and its storied old bars; but it could also be cleaner, greener, safer, quieter, more walkable and welcoming to all.
Christmas is coming but the mood in the Welsh hospitality industry is none too merry. The festive bubble popped yesterday when First Minister Mark Drakeford announced new rules aimed at controlling a spike in coronavirus cases, particularly among those aged under 25. The latest regulations target hospitality venues including restaurants, bars and cafés, which will be banned from selling alcohol and forced to close by 6pm as of Friday, December 4. The news has dealt another severe blow to the country’s already struggling leisure and hospitality industry in what is ordinarily one of the busiest periods of the year. In a move the CAMRA, Campaign for Real Ale, describes as “devastating and draconian”, many pubs and restaurants – perfectly Covid prepped, with decorations already put up – are now cancelling Christmas parties and turkey orders and shutting their doors until the new year – or in some instances for good. “We kind of knew this was coming but it’s nevertheless devastating,” says Paul Grimwood, director of Ultracomida, which runs a pair of deli-restaurants in the coastal towns of Narberth and Aberystwyth, as well as Curado and Vermut in Cardiff. “Wales depends upon tourism and hospitality is at the heart of that. We’ve been singled out as a sector for some time without any data to back up the narrative. It feels like we’re being scapegoated. For the maximum number of businesses to survive we need the Government to stop the stop-start pattern, which is extraordinarily punishing both mentally and financially. Come up with easily accessible financial support delivered quickly and a plan that takes us to spring. Make the message simple so that the public and businesses understand. We’re not looking for hand-outs – just don’t throw an entire industry off a cliff.”
These are unusual times, and the state of affairs can change quickly. Please check the latest travel guidance before making your journey. Note that our writer visited pre-pandemic. Many of Bangkok’s huge downtown hotels are excellent bases from which to explore the city with children. Safe, clean and calm worlds of their own, some offer kids’ pools, clubs, menus and activities ranging from painting to boxing lessons, plus babysitting services. Extra beds in rooms or suites are rarely an issue and hotel staff are genuinely enamoured by younger guests. The city’s main sights suitable for younger visitors, as well as cinemas and shopping opportunities, are usually within close reach by sky train. Here's our pick of the best family-friendly resorts in Bangkok.
Low-cost airline easyJet has announced a new cabin bag policy, meaning passengers can no longer bring a wheelie case or large rucksack on board for free. The new policy means that people can only take a “small under seat cabin bag” free of charge. A spokesperson for easyJet said: “This will enable them to bring all the essentials for their journey or enough for a short trip.” This brings easyJet in line with the stringent cabin bag policies of Ryanair and Wizz, which have each shrunk their free cabin bag allowances in recent years. Passengers booking with these airlines must pay for ‘Priority’ in order to take a bigger bag on board. While the move has received criticism on social media, the airline is spinning the move as an improvement for passengers. Robert Carey, Chief Commercial and Customer Officer for easyJet, said: “Punctuality is important to our customers and we know that if they have their bags placed into the hold at the gate due to the limited space on board this can cause flight delays, and it can be frustrating for them too. “Our new policy will improve boarding and punctuality for everyone, as well as give our customers certainty of what they will have with them on board.” Those wanting to use the overhead locker space will need to book an ‘Up front’ or ‘Extra legroom’ seat, starting from £7.99. Other benefits of booking these seat types include speedy boarding and quicker bag drop for hold luggage. On a one-way flight from London Gatwick to Barcelona on April 16, the cheapest option for adding extra cabin bag space is £16.49, adding almost 50 per cent to the value of the ticket (£34.99).
It was at Puerto Natales that I began to wonder if Patagonia's most notorious element – the wind – had got the better of our holiday. Under clear blue skies, the RCGS Resolute eased its way into the harbour and turned as if to begin mooring. The golden steppe beckoned. The peaks framing the little town summoned. But the gale that had been blowing incessantly almost since we'd embarked five days earlier picked up with mean-spirited haste, turning the sea to froth and whipping up spray from the wave-tops.
Travellers who have previously tested positive for Covid-19 will be exempt from any quarantine or testing requirements when visiting Iceland, Government officials have confirmed. The new rules, which come into effect on December 10, will enable visitors from selected destinations with a "certificate of prior Covid-19 infection" to enter the country freely – based on the assumption that those who have already had the virus are immune. "As of December 10, arriving passengers who have already recovered from a Covid-19 infection will [be] exempt from border measures if they can provide proof of prior infection," reads a statement from Iceland's Ministry for Foreign Affairs. The following certificates will be considered a "valid confirmation" of a previous infection: Positive PCR-test result for SARS-CoV-2/Covid-19 that is older than 14 days. Presence of antibodies against SARS-CoV-2/Covid-19 measured by ELISA serologic assay. But while this is heartening news for travellers, Britons may only be able to take advantage of the rule relaxation until December 31. The Government website calls for "documented [Covid-positive] results from a laboratory within the EEA/EFTA-area". Telegraph Travel understands that until December 31, the rights and obligations contained in the EEA Agreement continue to apply for Britons – but post-Brexit, the UK will not be a EEA member state. We have contacted the Iceland tourism board for clarification. Currently, all travellers must either take a free-of-charge coronavirus test on arrival in Iceland, or self-isolate for 14 days. Those returning to the UK do not currently need to quarantine when they arrive home, as Iceland has 'travel corridor' status. There will be further revision of entry requirements in the new year, Iceland Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir told local media, adding: “These measures are intended to limit the risk of infections getting into the country across the border. While we can never guarantee that all potential sources of future outbreaks can be stopped, it is prudent to aim to minimise this risk as much as possible. “We are hopeful that the development of effective vaccines will allow us to review the border measures in the first weeks of the new year.”
The disease arrived from the east (or did it?). It took Europeans unawares. They were unsure of the nature of the illness, how it was transmitted, how to protect against it and what might be the best treatment. It spread quickly, official measures always running somewhat behind. Businesses were shut, festivals cancelled. Under pressure, hospital facilities were expanded. Involvement of the national government led to tough lockdown and quarantine measures, swingeing penalties for contravention, and a great deal of fake news. Influential voices claimed the economic and social effects of the cure would be worse than the disease. Then the epidemic died down. Then it flared again, in a second wave. Which brings us up to date. Or, on the other hand, takes us back exactly 300 years, to Europe’s last great plague epidemic. The outbreak devastated Marseille and Provence, notably those bits (Luberon, Avignon, Arles, Aix) where, these days, we like to go on holiday. And – here’s the point – the parallels between 1720/21 and 2020 are striking. Granted, the present unpleasantness is less fatal per head of population. By 1722, up to 120,000 of Provence’s 400,000 people had succumbed. In 2020, there have also been fewer corpses left out for weeks to rot on sunny streets than was the case in Marseille. According to contemporaries, they became squelchy. Other than that, though, it sometimes appears that, in recent months, we and our leaders have been following a 300-year-old blueprint. The traditional story starts in Marseille in spring 1720. France’s main Mediterranean port was booming, having overcome the baneful effects of the recent French financial crisis (precipitated by Scottish economist and wide boy, John Law: a whole different tale).