It was 2000 before I went on my first foreign holiday. Unlike the youngsters of today who are off to Maga and Santa Ponsa as soon as they finish school, I didn’t even have a passport until I was 27. I was 29 in 2000.
Our little family of five, the eldest who was five, the second who was 18 months and the baby of three months all piled into the Renault 14, with a hired roof box and headed to the ferry to France. My mother and father in law came too. They had their own car, but no roof box.
We had a lovely two weeks in Brittany in a gite. Well it sounds romantic calling it that, it was kind of half of a house, and shabby chic doesn’t quite sum up its basic nature. But it was lovely.
During the first week we were toodling along a seaside town, my husband pushing the toddler in a buggy and me with the baby in a sling, when the toddler screamed. The buggy had collapsed and trapped his thumb in it. For a few seconds our efforts to free him crushed his thumb more. Pandemonium ensued. My Leaving Cert French left me as I tried to get some emergency help. A kind woman in a crepe shop phoned for an ambulance. In no time at all a black and white van screeched up beside us. Three men in black fatigues jumped out wearing back packs. They pushed us aside and saw to our son. My son stopped crying with the shock of this almost military operation. They got us all into the ambulance and we were whizzed to the paediatric hospital. With no queues at all, the little man was immediately x-rayed. It turned out his thumb, which was completely flat, and had us thinking was destroyed, was flat because his little bones hadn’t grown yet and all was fine. It was black and blue but nothing a drop of Calpol wouldn’t sort. Indeed, by the end of it we were in a worse state than the by now spoiled blonde haired cherub that was charming all of the doctors and nurses. We still have the very cute x-ray of his little hand that we were given.
We didn’t need to make a claim on our travel insurance because we were covered by our E111. This is now called the EHIC. Basically, if you are resident in the European Economic Area or Switzerland, you can access the healthcare of the country you are visiting on the same terms as a resident of that country, as long as you have not travelled there for that purpose. You still need travel insurance for things like if an accident changes your travel arrangements, or the country you are visiting requires you to contribute to the cost of the care. But most insurance companies will not cover all your care if you have not got an EHIC.
No one knows what the arrangements will be after Brexit. Our Irish passports will not count as this is about residency. We Irish citizens will be living in a post-Brexit no man’s land. Irish and EU citizens living in our own country, without EU citizen rights. Yet another unknown as March 2019 comes at us like a train.