No doubt 2020 has been a challenging year for all of us. Between stay at home orders, places being closed up for months and months, mixed messages from the media &; Scientists, I think that we all feel as though we've been put through the spin cycle in the washing machine at least 100 times.
I am grateful that Bill's job is considered essential & that I have been able to collect unemployment. A bit humbling as I've never applied for any Government program for assistance my entire life & have always been gainfully employed since the age of 15. Even though I am still working in the Travel Business, most of the work that I'm doing is not bringing in any income. I think a lot of people don't understand how Travel Agents get paid. If we don't charge fees of our own (which many agents do, I never have but am considering putting some changes in place going forward), we don't get paid until clients travel and take the trip. So though I've been spending plenty of time the last three months canceling trips & rescheduling trips, I am essentially doing all of this work for free. It can be downright depressing to be honest & I am not a person prone to depression.
Add to this, we are travelers! We love to travel. We have been home since January 4th. This is just not normal for us. We've had 2 cruises cancel on us & I had my conference get canceled. We are hopeful that our cruise in September will happen as planned, but we wait and see for now. I have made frequent trips to "El Patio" & am getting a noticeable tan that looks like I've been on vacation. I call it my "Quaran-TAN".
Bill & I always do something special for our Anniversary. We both agree that it is the most important day on the calendar for both of us. We have been successful in always doing something & most cases it involved at least an overnight stay somewhere. Initially, I would have been flying home from my conference in Orlando the morning of June 10th, we figured we would go to dinner that night and then the next day head away someplace for a long weekend. I never got around to planning this because of Covid-19 & the uncertainty that brought to our lives.
Imagine my excitement when San Mateo County announced last Friday that restaurants could begin to open up for outdoor dining. A quick check on my weather app determined that the weather would be favorable, I checked my Open Table app to see which restaurants were ready to be open & secured a dinner reservation for our Anniversary. Then over the weekend, I caught a Facebook post for the Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay announcing that their Ocean Terrace Patio was open for sit-down service. The traveling wheels in my head began to spin around a bit. I asked Bill, "Do you think you can take off Wednesday?" I then explained that if he could, we would drive over to Half Moon Bay Tuesday evening, check-in to the hotel for 1 night and then we'd have the entire Anniversary day to spend together before dinner that night. He texted his boss, day off was approved, so I began to put the plans in motion.
I was actually surprised to see that the rates at the Ritz Carlton did not reflect any sign of our current economic times, it was either going to be $500+ for the night or 60K Marriott Reward points. I have a hard time parting with that much cash or points for one night under normal circumstances. No TA rates to be found, so I decided to pull the trigger and use my 60K Reward points to book a room, just a standard room. I REALLY wanted a fire pit room though, but that was going to either be another 60K points or $325 additional to the points. I am really good at asking for favors and perks on behalf of my clients, but I usually SUCK at asking for favors for myself. Another colleague of mine encouraged me to reach out to the sales department at the hotel. Through another colleague, I was able to get email addresses for the sales people, I emailed & asked if they might be able to upgrade us to the fire pit room. Sure enough, it was not a problem. Not only did the hotel upgrade us, they gave us a free glass of wine at the Ocean Terrace.
We really enjoyed getting OUT. We really enjoyed having conversations with the staff and even some of the other guests who were also dining at the patio. We had a nice long conversation with Erin who works in the Accounting department. She was walking around to see if anyone needed help & ended up clearing our dirty dishes from our table, which started the conversation. The Ritz never closed, but of course scaled back on staff, so most on board had to wear multiple hats during the last three months. She said it's really hard for them because "rules" make it very difficult for them to deliver the Ritz Carlton expected experience, but they are doing the best that they can to make guests feel welcome & taken care of.
We had dinner Tuesday night at the Ocean Terrace and food & service was great. We enjoyed sitting there watching the sunset and we could not have had a better evening with regard to weather. We spent the rest of our evening outside by our fire pit enjoying the bottle of wine that we brought from home & we had thought ahead to order a cheese platter "to go" from the Ocean Terrace for the late night munchies- it was perfect. With the current restrictions, there is no room service and the restaurant closes at sundown.
We woke up on our Anniversary late, sleeping in was needed & the bed was so comfortable. We got ready leisurely & then visited the Ocean Terrace for lunch before leaving the resort. Again, excellent service & when the waiter learned that it was our Anniversary he comped our drinks. Those are the things that they can do to bring that Ritz experience right now. They made us feel special.
On our way home, we stopped at the Filoli Gardens to visit. Neither of us had ever been & we thought it was a nice outdoor activity for our Anniversary. The place is beautiful. I was not thrilled that a mask is required during your entire visit. We were definitely more than 6 feet away from anyone else during our visit, so I think that policy should be relaxed. The county policy says "face coverings are required if you can't maintain the 6 ft. social distance", so I think Filoli takes it a bit to the extreme. We did take our masks off when we were far away from others. In 80 degree heat, they are not comfortable at all.
We then had dinner in downtown Redwood City at Arya Steakhouse. Again, they bent over backwards to serve us & make sure everything was perfect. We asked my brother to be our "Uber" driver to/from dinner so we could enjoy our cocktails and not worry about driving home, he was more than happy to do that for us. I'm not comfortable yet getting into a stranger's vehicle during the Covid-19 health crisis.
It felt amazing to "travel" even if only for 1 night. It was nice to be at a restaurant, 3 times in 2 days! As for Covid-19 protocols that I witnessed:
At the hotel:
- you can only valet park your car but the valets are using hand sanitizer in between handling cars. When we left, we still used a wipe to clean all surfaces in the car.
- I had checked-in via the mobile app, so the front desk clerk only had to verify information. I did not need to present an ID or credit card. There was plexi-glass to divide us & she was wearing a mask. There was also a barrier to prevent you from leaning against the front desk, keeping social distance.
- Signs all around the hotel advise to wear a mask in all public spaces.
- Signs at the elevators ask you to wait for the next empty elevator car so that you do not ride with people outside of your group.
- Masks are not required once you're sitting at the outdoor dining/patio area & they are not required as you walk around outside as long as you can maintain social distancing.
- Hand sanitizer stations are located around the resort.
- Most doors have handicap buttons at hand & foot level, so you can easily tap with your elbow or foot to open the door without touching.
- In the room, there were no glasses.
- Currently, there are no bellboy services but they will provide you with a cart so that you can bring everything to your room.
- Currently, there is no room service or indoor dining. We were told that the Conservatory was open for breakfast. You have to call in the order & then pick it up to either eat outside or in your room.
At the Ocean Terrace Patio at the Ritz:
- All staff were wearing masks and gloves.
- They sanitize each table once guests leave & then change gloves afterwards
- All tables were easily 6 feet apart, so social distancing was easy.
At Filoli Gardens:
- masks were required for the entire visit both indoors and outdoors.
- the paths were all marked with one way arrows dictating which direction you visit the gardens
- limited bathroom facilities available & signs that require only one party in the bathroom at a time, there were about 8 stalls in the woman's bathroom, it was not a busy day so this was easy to follow
I'm looking forward to more adventures, but will be proceeding with caution of course. We can't afford to let our guard down when it comes to Covid-19, so wash your hands, don't touch your face (I touch mine so often it's hard not to!!), make good use of your knuckles/elbows when touching public surfaces & wear a mask when you are unable to maintain social distancing! Be Safe!