At first we were thinking Washington State, the Pacific Northwest, the Olympic Peninsula. Our thought, because we are nerds, was to spend some of the time hiking on the peninsula and in all those insanely green and mossy forests, and some of the time visiting Snoqualmie and doing a bit of a Twin Peaks tour. Bryce has been obsessed with Twin Peaks and David Lynch in general (he watches his crazy weather reports fairly reliably and our wedding vows include me watching at least one David Lynch film per year), and the outside of the Great Northern Hotel is actually the Salish Lodge & Spa.
|Image from salishlodge.com|
The inside doesn't look anything like the show, but we figured we could find some awesomely nerdy places to go and enjoy a fancypants getaway either before or after hiking all over the Olympic Peninsula.
We also thought about sneaking up to British Columbia for a few days, but then it turned out there was so much to do in Washington State that maybe British Columbia should be its own trip. Especially since apparently there's an amazing botanical garden there, and I am a sucker for a good botanical garden.
Anyway, I had started planning some Washington-trip stuff via Pinterest, when Bryce surprised me over blueberry pancakes one Sunday morning in January, and changed our destination.
"What would you say about going abroad for this trip instead?"
We'd talked about going overseas before, to Norway, or Finland, or Iceland, or Tuscany, or Provence, or Ireland, or Scotland... but I hate flying and am terrified of terrorism. Bryce argued it was time to live a little, and to do the stereotypical privileged childfree traveling everywhere, and that while the U.S. has a lot of great places to go, there was no reason why we couldn't expand our horizons and cross an ocean. I've done that exactly once in my life, and it was when I was 19 or 20 and my family took a trip to Yorkshire and Bridlington to visit my stepfather's family and see the Bronte's moors and the walled city of York. So, uh, yeah...maybe it was time to go to another country. I could find some way to cope with being super high in the air over an ocean for hours.
So, we started planning a trip to Ireland and Scotland (Ireland for my distant heritage, Scotland for Bryce's) and then the more I started to look into the trip the more I wanted to spend more time in one country and so we shifted to all Scotland for this time.
I got REALLY into it. It was a good start, since they speak English in Scotland, and so we could get international travel without the fear of not knowing the language well enough in case of emergency. I started watching all kinds of youtube videos on various areas of Scotland. I watched a ton of Rick Steeves. I pinned things like mad. I discovered Scotland is a really great place for Celiacs to go, as there is a LOT of gluten free stuff and their regulations make it super easy, which was a relief. I reread all of Mel's Scottish Trip posts and salivated over all the Harry Potter places. And the hairy coos, of course.
I started planning an itinerary around seeing puffins, seeing the Jacobite train, and visiting the Loch Ness Monster museum. We also wanted to go see a castle that is apparently some long-ago relative of Bryce's family, so like a super removed "family castle." There was a castle you could stay at but it looked super haunted and while that appealed to Bryce, I did not feel that our vacation needed to include millennia-old ghosts. I bought travel guides.
We were messing with when to go, and basing it off of the dates puffins are most reliably on the island of Staffa. Because I have been dying to see puffins in person forever, and in Maine you can go on a boat and see them on their rocky outcroppings, but in Scotland YOU CAN GET OFF THE BOAT AND WALK AROUND THE ISLAND WITH THE PUFFINS. So that sealed the deal.
Bryce had his Candidacy Exam (which sounds not scary but is basically "Here is my PhD proposal and here is all the research I've already done, here is my plan for finishing this out, here are my publications and my plans to have more publications, and here is why this is useful to humanity...please let me continue towards my dissertation and acquisition of those three amazing letters." His advisor asked him to take more time off from work in order to finish his presentation and proposal and have ample time to prepare. So that started making the Scotland trip sound a little less likely.
Then the first big US cases of coronavirus hit Washington State around January-February. And it just blew up into an epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, so we were like, "WHEW! Thank goodness we didn't decide to go THERE!"
And then Europe blew up, and Italy was in terrible shape, and we were glad we hadn't picked Tuscany.
In March Scotland started reporting cases.
It became clear that while we may not have gone because Bryce used up his vacation time for his PhD, we were DEFINITELY not going now because there was a full-tilt pandemic, we lived in New York which fast became a new epicenter, the idea of getting on a plane seemed ludicrous, and then we were working from home for the foreseeable future, getting groceries delivered and going nowhere.
Let alone Scotland to see puffins, the Hogwarts Express, and Nessie.
I am just not meant to see puffins. We went to Bar Harbor a while ago and went to see puffins on a Puffin and Whale Watching boat tour that left early in the morning, and it was unusually foggy. As we sat huddled on a bench in our sweatshirts, the announcement came over the PA that "If you are here for whales, you will definitely see whales. We're a go for whales. If you're here for puffins, the fog is so thick that it is not safe for us to try to get near the rocky outcroppings where they are, so you will not see puffins today. REPEAT: YOU WILL NOT SEE PUFFINS TODAY. Please exit the boat and get a refund if you only wanted to see puffins." Well, crap.
And now, I had the chance to see puffins very much up close, and there's a pandemic. Do I think my desire to see puffins caused the pandemic? Absolutely not, I'm not delusional. But I do think that every time we try to do something exciting there seems to be some kind of cosmic shutting it down.
I have a plan for puffins though. It's real weird but I'm very excited and it's not at all a boat trip through the Hebrides islands, but it will make me feel a little better. Here is a sneak peek:
Also, we found an interesting video that has given us ideas for an actual Twin Peaks themed vacation to Washington State, whenever we can actually travel somewhere and not fear dying. Our fear of dying is pretty high, and given the United States' response to things like universal mask-wearing and staying home and social distancing, it's not likely that we'll be able to comfortably do that anytime soon. However, the video gave us a vicarious moment where we could, with a lot of willing suspension of disbelief, pretend we were somewhere else. Enjoy, it's 28 minutes but will send you virtually to the impossibly green Pacific Northwest, many locations from Twin Peaks, including the TWO hotels that were used for the Great Northern, which now that we know that maybe we can try to stay in both.
I'm sad we didn't get to go to any of these places, but I'm glad there are ways we can still plan and dream for a day when we can. Even if it seems that day is ridiculously far in the future. In the meantime, we'll enjoy our peaceful home and the slightly less exotic wildlife we have here.