Moree Champion's Glenda Bulmer in self-isolation after European holiday was cut short

Moree Champion's sales representative Glenda Bulmer is one of a number of Moree residents currently in self-isolation after returning from overseas.

Glenda and husband Ralph were due to be coming home from a four-week European holiday this week, however their plans were cut short as the coronavirus crisis unfolded around the world.

The trip had been planned since late last year when Glenda and Ralph decided to return to the UK, as well as visit Brussels in Belgium and the Netherlands' capital Amsterdam.

They left Moree on March 9, arriving in London from where they enjoyed a day trip to Cambridge before boarding a train to Brussels on March 11.

It was here that Glenda said she first felt nervous for the first time.


"When we arrived in Brussels, the railway station was full of both police and armed soldiers," she said.

"This is before any shutdowns.

"It felt like I was in a war zone."

Glenda and Ralph enjoyed a delicious lunch at Saint-Gilles Restaurant/Bar - which would become one of their final pleasures of the trip before they found themselves in lockdown after lockdown, and able to eat only room service or takeaway for the remainder of their time away.

On March 14, Glenda and Ralph were hoping to ride the Hop on Hop Off bus around Brussels, only to discover it was closed and the city was in lockdown.

"We could only find a McDonald's for breakfast but had to eat outside on the benches," Glenda said.

"No other food places were open and then only takeaway. You were not allowed to eat in any restaurant. All pubs and shops were closed.

"It was an eerie feeling to be here in peace time and for everything to be like this - all due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"Again, there was a huge police presence checking on all shops to make sure they were not open. Even our hotel could not serve house guests - we were lucky we found some takeaway and went back to our room."

Glenda and Ralph were pleased to leave Brussels the following day and hoped Amsterdam would be better. By this stage, Glenda's sister Rhonda was concerned for their welfare and wanted them to come immediately.

"We thought we would be okay," Glenda said.

After checking into their hotel in Amsterdam, Glenda and Ralph went for a walk around the city to get their bearings. By the time they returned to the hotel, they found out only hotel guests were allowed in.

Lockdown had begun.

The next day they contacted the Australian Embassy, but at that time there were no travel warnings for Australians. They also contacted Federal Member for Parkes Mark Coulton's office to see if the Australian government was doing anything for Australians overseas, but at this stage they weren't.

Lockdown was in full swing by March 17.

In their hotel, it was room service only for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The majority of shops were shut. By this stage Glenda contacted their travel agent, who assured them everything would be okay.

The next day on the way to the airport, bound for Scotland, Glenda said the streets were dead.

"I don't recall seeing a person on the streets," she said.

When they arrived at Schiphol Airport, they were told their flight had been cancelled.

Luckily they were able to get a later flight to Edinburgh, however this meant they spent the day at the airport, which Glenda said was also eerily quiet.

"There was only one coffee shop opened - the rest were closed including the lounges," she said.

"Security was very intense and a lot of places where you might sit, especially around eateries, were closed off. The number of parked planes on the tarmac was unbelievable, and for the size of the airport it was very quiet - I think I have seen more people at Moree airport when a flight is full."

By this stage the Australian government was urging all Australians to come home as soon as possible. Glenda and Ralph looked into changing their flights, but the cost was double what they originally paid, so they decided to continue on.

After arriving in Edinburgh, they found a travel agent to check that their flight back to Australia on March 30 was not cancelled. They felt more at ease when they found out it was still scheduled.

Shops were still open in Edinburgh, but quiet.

On March 20 they got a train from Edinburgh to Lancaster, England.

At the unusually quiet Edinburgh Railway Station, they had yet another takeaway meal.

"We were getting use to it by now so we learnt to have what was available," Glenda said.

Glenda and Ralph were due to have two nights in Lancaster, however after looking at their Qantas booking on March 20 saw that their flight home had been cancelled.

"I phoned Qantas in Australia and got a very helpful person who suggested we come home sooner rather than later," Glenda said.

"So, we decided to come home on Sunday night [March 21], out of London, which gave us a day to get back there."

By this stage Lancaster was also in lockdown.

Glenda and Ralph got a train back to London, which had only a few people on it.

In London they spent the night at a hotel near Tower Bridge and Glenda said she has never seen it so quiet.

"With no pubs open and room service only for hotel guests, we had to get my new favourite thing - takeaway," Glenda joked.

The next day they headed to Heathrow Airport and saw "hardly anyone on the streets".

"With no tourist stuff open we were glad to finally be heading home," Glenda said.

"There's not much point being there with everything closed."

Glenda and Ralph were on one of the last flights out of London and then one of the last flights from Singapore to Australia.

They arrived back in Sydney at 6.15am on Tuesday, March 24 where they were given information about coronavirus and what they needed to do, which was to self-isolate for the next 14 days.

However Glenda couldn't believe no-one at the airport was tested and they were allowed to leave with few questions asked.

"No-one was tested which seemed strange considering how many people have been infected by the virus and have died from it," she said.

"We had a full day to wait in Sydney before we could catch our flight home on Tuesday night and with all Qantas Club lounges closed, we checked into the Holiday Inn at the airport so we could freshen up and have some more room service."

They arrived back in Moree last Tuesday night and are now halfway through their two-week self-isolation period.

When they got home, Glenda's sister Rhonda had made sure they had a house stocked of food, while Moree Champion co-worker Leah Hancock has been doing grocery shopping for them.

Glenda said the period of self-isolation has been "going okay", and has made her realise just how often she would have normally "ducked down to the shops".

"Personally, I think it's going to change the way I shop after this," she said.

Glenda and Ralph have kept busy doing jobs around the house that they wouldn't normally get to do during the week, while Glenda has enjoyed a game or two of solitaire on the computer.

"It's the little things you don't get time for normally," she said.

Glenda is particularly thankful they came home when they did, to avoid being in lockdown in a hotel room in Sydney. They also left just as London went into lockdown, so they wouldn't have been able to do anything for the remainder of their holiday anyway.

Glenda and Ralph are now looking forward to getting back to a semblance of reality, although even when their 14-day period of self-isolation ends next Wednesday, they will only be able to leave their home for essentials, with tough new restrictions now in place in NSW.