more to the story

I lied a little bit, in my last post. Turns out there was a little more to our second anniversary than frozen “chicken” nuggets and apathy. Because four days after that we up and left the country for two weeks.

The reason I didn’t mention this on the last post is because the trip wasn’t technically for our anniversary. Sure, it was initially a two-years-ish benchmark of sorts — a fevered, wishful OMG, what if we could one day leave this continent? daydream the beau and I long shared. But as the months passed and we managed to actually grow our savings, it began to look less like a dream and more like a legitimate reality — until it stopped being at all about celebrating our marriage and grew into being, simply, “our big trip.”

… A trip that happened to coincide with the actual week of our anniversary, yes, but that was just because it was the best timing logistically speaking STOP LOOKING AT ME LIKE THAT OKAY? We took a big anniversary trip! We did! Maybe next we’ll start wearing matching clothes!

He’s going to love it when I buy him his very own pair of electric blue skinny jeans.

I didn’t say much about all this before, because it turns out that going on two-week trip overseas feels like the most horrifically privileged thing I have ever done outside of being taken to Belize by my in-laws earlier this year, which is a whole other matter entirely. The in-laws thing, I mean. That’s just a whole iron kettle of class issues, right there. Also fish. Fish with class issues and overly-generous in-laws problems, which I realize aren’t actually problems.

Just keep typing, Lyn, you haven’t quite alienated everybody in the world just yet.

So we went. We saw. Where did we go? What did we see? Scotland. Glasgow and Edinburgh, specifically. Florence, Italy. Calabria, which is a rural area in southern Italy. And finally London, England. Not the whole world, no, but significantly more than I’ve seen since the military sent my family to Germany in the 1980s.

We reunited with two old friends, met three new ones from the internets, and tried to meet a fourth and fifth but couldn’t make schedules work.

Kirsty graciously managed to suffer though dinner while I mutely stared at her in awe from across the table — I think I might have drooled a little, actually. We hired Lauren to do a photo session with us because we love her work, and I’m fairly certain our faces broke her camera and she’s too polite to ask us for a reimbursement. Ariel put us up in her lovely home and acted as our personal tour guide, her husband cooked us bacon and eggs to see us off our last morning, and on top of that we sort of stole all their pocket money from them for the bus and Underground. 

I don’t think we’re being asked back to the UK anytime soon, is what I’m saying.

People keep asking me to tell them about our trip, and I don’t know what to say. How can you summarize the totality, the immensity, of an experience in some number of tiny, useless words? You can’t. At least I can’t.

I can tell you some of my favorite moments, though:

  • Leaning forward in my seat on a train from London to Glasgow to watch drops of rain on the window dance and tremble in unison, then come together in an undulating stream, only to divide and come together once more as sheep dotted the fields beyond the glass.
  • Scrambling to the top of Arthur’s Seat over Edinburgh as wind stung my ears, whipped my hair, and buffeted my body. Bracing myself and making a slow 360-degree turn to take in the dark church spires rising from the city, the rolling bluffs of candy-green feather grass and craggy wet rock, and the grey water fading to cloud at the edges of the horizon.
  • Buying a couple of bottles and getting lost in the maze of cobbled pathways, courtyards, and piazzas in Florence. Following the scent of gardenias down a dim alley to a perfumery stacked from floor to ceiling with curious laboratory and apothecary bottles.
  • Tensing against the chill as I ran, stumbling, into the salty Tyrrhenian Sea, then relaxing into a float to watch the orange sun dim and dip below the treeline, as all down the shore men fished at the edge of the sand.
  • Skimming the edge of the Thames in a race against the rapidly rising tide, and digging and poking under stone, glass, and algae for pieces of tile and ceramic treasure from a long-lost palace.

If not for the generosity of friends both new and old, we simply would not have been able to make this trip. And for this I am eternally grateful. For once, I have no cynicism in me. It’s all been wrung right out. 

I’ve been low and I’ve been high. This year has been one of the highs. It’ll be low again, but for now, for this moment, I’m glad to be here.

I’m incredibly fortunate.


15 Responses to “more to the story”

  1. I want to go to Scotland SO BADLY. I’ve never done 2 weeks away and am not sure of the logistics of it – how many days did you stay in each place? Did you feel like it was enough time? When we went to Ireland for the honeymoon we did 3 days in one hotel, 2 in another, and 1 in Dublin – it was stupid and I wished we spent all 6 days at the first hotel. Will you go back to any of the places? Which did you like best?

    • DUDE, I loved Scotland way more than I anticipated I would, and strangely, loved Italy a bit less. That was kind of a surprise! But there’s an old magic to Scotland that I also recognized in your photos of Quebec City. Just stone and moss and magic. It’s very much you.

      We ended up with a wonky itinerary because our trip was driven by the location of our friends. Glasgow isn’t the most fascinating city in all of the UK, but we have a friend who lives there, and we wanted to visit her for sure. So Glasgow became an anchor point, and Edinburgh and London were other cities we knew we wanted to see for sure. So we figured we’d have two weeks to explore those cities and some countryside, you know, poke around and really see things.

      THEN an opportunity came up to visit a friend in southern Italy, and we thought, god, we’re already going to be in the UK, we should totally just pop over to Italy while we’re there. And, of course, logic followed that if we’re making the effort to go all the way to Italy, we should at least try to see ONE other city, like Florence, right?

      So at this point our trip was being roughly divided in half: one week in the UK, one week in Italy. Five “cities” (the place in southern Italy was more of a village/farm than a city, but whatev) total, for two weeks. Plus travel. Oh, my god. When we got into the nitty gritty of the planning, like planes and trains and whatnot, we realized HOW MUCH FRIGGIN TIME we were wasting traveling between places. That was pretty frustrating. But when we’d ask ourselves, okay, which of these locations do we want to cut out, the answer was none.

      Part of the problem was that we never take trips overseas like this, so it was hard not to want to maximize the shit out of it, you know? I mean, we’re ALREADY GOING TO BE OVER THERE, WHY NOT SEE ______?

      In the end we stayed about three days at each place, less the time it took to get there (lumping together Glasgow and Edinburgh, between which we split roughly 3.5 days). To answer your question, finally, it was both too little time and just enough time. I would have ideally liked to stay longer at each place, but I found myself okay with leaving and moving on to the next on more than one occasion. Edinburgh, for example. I could have seen more, but I felt satisfied with the amount we did see while we were there.

      It’s not a very good answer, I know. I feel like a minimum of three days in a place is a decent rule of thumb. More if you plan on lounging/unwinding a lot. We’re the kind of travelers who just like to walk around all day and drink and eat in between, and you can cover a lot of ground in that time.

      Edinburgh I would definitely go back to. I want to see more of Scotland! I’d also love to go back to the place in southern Italy we went to. Those were definitely my favorites.

      • You know, we left Quebec early (like, in the AM on Friday instead of the late afternoon) because it was just like “Ok, you know? We’ve seen a bunch, I miss the cats.”

        But then in Ireland, we stayed here: & had this huge suite with a fireplace and there was a pool and really i could have just stayed there and cruised around the coast and some small villages and been stoked for 6 days.

  2. Your photos. So pretty.

  3. Come back to Edinburgh!

  4. I’m so happy for you. Travel is an exhausting thing, I suspect, and for those us doing the big travelling late in life the expectations are bigger and harder to meet, I think.

    I’m sure your UK people are still talking to you.

  5. Never apologize for finding a way to travel.
    You’re welcome anytime. Hopefully next time the fabulous 70s bathroom will be a memory.

    • What Ariel said.

      Sometimes I feel squirmily privileged for the places I was able to visit overseas (and the fact that I didn’t have to pay much out of pocket). But no one in their right mind would have turned down the opportunity I chanced into.

      Foreign travel can be exhausting and stressful, but for me, the moments stand out clearer than so many lovely days of routine spent at home (and the stressful, exhausting parts have now become hilarious in retrospect).

      And “because we’re there, and it’s there” is why I went to Paris for a weekend and Amsterdam the next–not nearly enough time to soak up those places, but too hard to resist when they’re so close and who knows if I’ll ever be back?

      I love the light in your photos.

  6. Oh lady. How I wish I could have met you.

    I owe you an email. Ax

  7. I’m so glad you shared.

    My heart is so happy from the pictures.

  8. Congrats on an exciting trip to Europe! 🙂

  9. I loved Glasgow (which was good, because it was the airport we used to get to and from Europe for that trip so we had several days there) and we couldn’t bear Edinburgh, although it was the height of August Festival season at the time and the crowds might have had something to do with it. (Also it smelled like cornpops.) I love hearing how different people feel about the same place. And your pictures are just gorgeous.

    And when you go back to Scotland, Stirling is lovely.

    And don’t feel bad about traveling. Class issue or not. As long as you’re grateful and happy, I think you end up okay in the end. 🙂

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