We go to Padstow every single year and I wasn’t going to let a global pandemic stop us from going this year. I talked last time about the changes to self-catering accommodation during covid-19, but what about the changes to Padstow itself? (I’m sure the changes to Padstow will be just like the changes to any other UK holiday towns, in case you are wondering whether to go away.)
Padstow is a very popular Cornish holiday destination. It gets very busy in the town centre and it was still busy during covid-19. I wouldn’t say it was busier than usual, but it wasn’t noticeably less busy either. There are quieter times of day in the town centre, but it is busy most of the time. Can you keep two metres away from other people? No. Can you keep a metre away? Most of the time. You just have to ‘stay alert’. Some people are wearing masks around the harbour and the shopping streets, but most aren’t.
When you are walking around the streets, you can actually forget for a few minutes that you in the midst of a global pandemic. And that is not a bad thing. We’ve spent months with it clouding every thought and, while I still respect the rules and respect the virus itself, it was nice to have a break from it.
The shops are a different matter. Of course you have to wear face coverings. And there are strict rules on numbers inside the shop, so you usually have to queue to get in. This takes away a lot of the joy of browsing the shops on holiday – you are unlikely to go into one unless you intend to buy something. There is usually some flexibility around families – so shops may say for example only two families in at a time. So clearly if you’ve got small children with you, nobody is going to force you to leave them outside. But if there are two parents, it’s best if you don’t both go in there with your three kids if at all possible. Shops all have hand sanitiser just inside the door and some will insist you use it, while others just have it there as an option.
My husband likes nothing more than a trip to the pub on holiday. We only usually have one or two drinks (he’s the only drinking alcohol, although my 16 year old son can’t wait until he is allowed a beer in a pub), but we do usually go four or five days out of seven. My husband generally loves the whole experience of being in a pub and coronavirus has just taken all of that away. There is no spontaneity at all. It’s totally understandable why these procedures are in place and huge credit to the staff directing customers and keeping their sense of humour (although some of the staff in shops were grumpy, verging on rude).
First, you have to give your contact details on arrival for track and trace of course, which is perfectly understandable. Then you are given an allocated table. There is a one-way system – so technically you should even go outside and in again if you go to the toilet, otherwise you are going against the one-way system. Drinks are by table service, but most pubs want you to download an app to order. By the time you’ve logged onto the slow wifi and downloaded the app, then worked out how it works, you’ve lost the will to live. We only went to the pub for a drink once.
You can usually just turn up to some of our favourite visitor attractions in Cornwall, like Adrenalin Quarry and karting at St Eval, but all attractions now have to be booked online in advance. This of course keeps queueing to a minimum and prevents overcrowding. It just means you have to plan your holiday a bit more carefully, which plenty of people are happy to do anyway.
At crazy golf, we were told to wear the plastic gloves they provided, as they claimed they didn’t have time to clean the equipment. The gloves were horribly uncomfortable and sweaty. I’m pretty sure they could have cleaned the equipment if they tried – we saw the bike hire companies cleaning the bikes. I could see a lot of people refusing to wear the gloves, no doubt forgetting that they were to protect other people, not just themselves.
Since lockdown restrictions have eased, I’ve found public toilets in general to be immaculately clean. That was not the case in Padstow. They were as dirty as ever and included some fairly complicated rules on using them – this was the most complicated one I saw. Due to problems with social distancing, two of the three town centre toilet blocks had also been closed down, which wasn’t ideal. We were lucky that our holiday house was close enough to the town centre that we generally didn’t need to use them.
We always get the ferry across from Padstow to the beach at Rock. As this is public transport, of course everyone was required to wear a face covering. Numbers were recduced slightly, but it still felt pretty crowded. Paper tickets are normally issued by an employee walking around the boat and taking cash. He is now inside a perspex box and payment is by card only.
Looking at other activities, like speed boats and the sealife safari, the boats looked as crowded as ever. I know that they are outdoors, but social distancing couldn’t have been possible. People were also wearing damp, borrowed life jackets, which didn’t seem particularly hygienic. It is strange that shops, pubs and restaurants have such tight restrictions, but for things like speed boats you would have no idea you were living through a pandemic.
Our holiday to Padstow this year was still the much-needed break we wanted, but it was definitely a bit different. I do hope that at some point we can ease out of the ‘new normal’ back into an old normal without face coverings and one-way systems around pubs, but I know that is still some way off.