I can’t quite believe it, but I’m back in Canada. Penticton BC, to be precise, in the heart of the Okanagan Valley, one of the world’s most scenic wine regions, and home to a dynamic wine scene that’s moved a long way even in the seven years since I first came here.
I’ve been travelling a bit of late, after a huge travel fast, albeit an externally applied one. But just short haul: Italy, Ukraine, France and Romania. I wasn’t expecting to be doing long-haul so soon.
But it’s the rearranged National Wine Awards of Canada, which I judged in 2014-2019 inclusive, and then the pandemic hit. It’s a really good competition looking at pretty much all the Canadian wines, judged really well by a nice group of people. I was invited while it was still impossible to travel, but fortunately my hopeful yes to the invitation didn’t prove to optimistic, and early September Canada relaxed travel restrictions for the fully vaxxed.
The process of getting here wasn’t too painful. I had to get a PCR test (I did this in Romania before coming here) and download the ArriveCan app. This app allows you to fill in a lot of information, such as proof of your vaccine status and your quarantine plan (should you need to: this is the only potential tricky bit of the process). Then at the airport, you give your ArriveCan code (it shows you are eligible to visit Canada; you’ll already have had to fill in your electronic travel authority of course), proof of your PCR negative test result, and you are good to go.
The flight was just as all flights used to be, with the only exception being the need to stay masked the whole time. This is strictly enforced. On a new 787, even economy class is a pleasant experience.
Landing in Vancouver was a good experience, too. I went to the Canadian transfer lane in the customs hall and was through in 10 minutes, with no queuing. You don’t leave airside, so there’s no fresh security. I was asked what I was doing here in a very friendly manner, and even when I said I was a wine journalist I wasn’t dealt with suspiciously.
Then a quick internal flight to Penticton, and here I am, ready to judge wine, visit some wineries, and then spend a few days on the island working and relaxing.
Are we back to normal? Absolutely not. But I’m glad that something that was a big part of my professional and personal life – travel – is back on the agenda.
Reminder: this blog is irregularly updated, but there are daily updates on the main wineanorak site.