This time of year, as the temperatures cool and the days shorten, I often find myself daydreaming about the wonderful memories I made traveling this past summer in Holland and in my favorite place on this planet – Scotland. I relish the beautiful memories of the places I visited and learned about and I yearn for more.
Now that I’ve finished recording those exquisite travel experiences in my blog from last year, “Claudia’s Travels 2018,” it’s time to turn my thoughts to what I would like to experience and see next summer! Where will my daydreams take me now?
I love to daydream, but some people think daydreaming is a waste of time. I find that it can be quite helpful actually – encouraging and inspiring; a fun and creative endeavor which eventually proves to be quite fruitful for me. Once images of possibilities form in my mind there’s no telling where they might take me. Sometimes, there are so many possibilities I have to stop the creative juices; write the ideas down so I can remember them all, and review them later in a pragmatical manner, evaluating which ones really stand out and particularly resonate with me.
Last year, I dreamed up a wonderfully delightful trip to Holland on a Bike & Barge excursion aboard the Magnifique III & also spent a nice while visiting Scotland for the sixth time following back country roads with my cousin Lindsay to areas we hadn’t traveled to and explored together yet.
After planning that trip this time last year, I shared my plans with my youngest granddaughter, Grace, showing her my map, the itinerary, and some pictures of places I looked forward to discovering for myself. She seemed quite interested and excited about my trip and shared (somewhat wistfully) that sometime she would love to be able to go along with me somewhere.
“Would you now?” I asked. “If you could go, what is the first place you would want to visit the most?”
Now it was her turn to let her imagination be ignited. Being a creative artistic sort of person as well, she immediately went into her own version of “creative daydream” mode easily. It didn’t take her long to strike up an image in her mind’s eye.
“Germany!” she replied without hesitation.
“Well, then, let’s just do that, ok? Let’s take a trip together! How exciting! I’ve never been to Germany before and I am so pleased that you want to travel with me. I would love to have you along. We could have a great time exploring a new land together! Okay?” I affirmed.
“Really Grandma!?! You’re serious? Wow! That’s so cool! Thank you! You mean it? You really mean it? Mom!!!! Guess what?…” she gratefully replied as she gave me a great big hug and ran off to tell her mother the wonderful news.
Having decided where we wanted to explore, the planning stage ensued; a vital step in making our dreams turn into reality! First, we started doing some research about Germany to decide what part of it we wanted to focus upon. I turned to one of my favorite travel experts, Rick Steves, and ordered his guidebook on the subject.
His guidebooks very handy and informative and he’s my kind of traveler – I’ve been learning from the best! I also received other excellent suggestions from various friends, family members, and fellow bloggers.
After doing the initial research on the subject, I started building a “google travel map” made specifically for this trip as I usually do. I really like having a visual representation of the places we will visit, what route we will take, etc., which is all conveniently displayed on a map I can reference over and over again.
It helps me to solidify it in my mind and helps me to stay organized too. If I read about something in particular that we want to be sure and see while we’re there I can create a “placemark” on the map.
To create a placemark: I ‘search’ for the sight I’m interested in. Google finds it and automatically marks the spot on the map with a placemark. If I am satisfied with the results it has provided, I can then choose to “add it to my map” that I have created in order to keep the placemark there permanently.
Once it is added permanently I can edit that placemark, adding information, changing its color and its iconic shape. It’s very handy. I end up creating my own personalized travel guide to make use of while we are actually traveling and it’s all right there on my iPad or iPhone for easy access. I don’t have to carry around guidebooks we’ve purchased nor a bunch of paperwork where we originally found the information because we extracted the necessary information and then typed it right in the appropriate placemark on the map.
I use yellow “bunk bed” placemarks to denote where we will be lodging, turquoise “exclamation mark” placemarks to denote special towns to visit, blue “crosses” for cathedrals or churches, and blue “splats” to denote points of interest. When we travel we’ll just reference the map each day to refresh our memory about where we’re spending the night and what we want to see while we’re in the vicinity! It works really well.
Grace and I figured out that the part of Germany we wanted to see the most was the area along the Rhine River. Our plane will land in Amsterdam and then we’ll head in a southerly direction toward Switzerland.
I started looking for lodging possibilities. I have a timeshare unit that I can stay at for a 7-day week every two years in Hawaii. I bought it years ago. Since I’m not as young and active as I used to be, visiting Hawaii doesn’t hold the same appeal it once did. Now, I always “bank” my week instead of using it. Once it is “banked” I can use that week elsewhere at other places worldwide instead.
I had a “banked” week saved up, and when I checked online for availability of places in Germany I got lucky – and was extremely delighted – to find a very nice resort in Bavaria where I could use it at the beginning of August! I love it when things come together like that! I reserved it straightway and now had a solid date to work around.
Once we knew where the resort was located and when we would be staying there, I created a placemark on the map for it and added all the pertinent details, such as the date of the stay, contact info, etc.
Before we started looking for more lodging between there and Amsterdam, I started looking for airfare. I had enough air miles saved up for my ticket so I started with my ticket first. Since award flights can be a bit restrictive and not readily available I checked first to see what was currently available if anything.
I found a great flight leaving the middle of July from Portland to Dublin and then Dublin to Aberdeen, Scotland. Perfect! Then I checked to see if I could buy another ticket for the same flight for my granddaughter, Grace.
“What?!! Wait a minute… Scotland? I thought you said you were going to Germany!” you might be asking. Allow me to explain…
Back to the act of daydreaming and all those possibilities I wrote down that had popped into my head. One of the ideas was that I would love to share my adventure this year with my some of my family instead of traveling by myself as I often do. When Grace expressed a desire to travel with me I was delighted. Dream come true! Tra-la! Then, later this summer after I returned from my trip this year, I started daydreaming again about the next trip and my daydreams came up with yet another great idea I couldn’t resist!
I surprised my daughter, Errin, by telling her that since I was already taking her daughter, Grace, I thought it would be really nice to invite her as well so that the three of us could have a grand old time altogether! Why not?! Errin was absolutely dumbfounded, as you might imagine, and agreed that it was indeed a GREAT idea!
When I looked for available flights that used my award miles for my airfare, I was searching flights that flew into Amsterdam or Frankfurt. I couldn’t find anything, however, that felt right or really met my needs.
Also, since this is the first time Errin and Grace will visit Europe, it might also be the only time they get to visit, so I wanted to make sure they saw and experienced as much as possible that I could afford.
While looking at the map I realized Paris isn’t very far at all from where we would be in Germany. We could take a fast train there and spend a few days. Then we could take another train north to Amsterdam and spend a couple of days there as well! It would be a nice loop! That would be fun!
The distance we would be traveling would be equivalent to driving around the perimeter of the state we live in – Oregon – (roughly speaking). That’s totally doable for us!
The size of most western European countries are much smaller than a lot of the states are here in the US. For instance, if you combined Scotland, England, and Ireland as one country, moved the landmass around a bit, as if it was a piece of clay, it would basically fit in the shape and size of California! Initially, I had envisioned the UK and Ireland to be about the size of the whole western part of America (California, Oregon, & Washington). Instead, Ireland, Scotland, and England combined have about the same amount of landmass as all of California! That’s a huge difference!
It took me a while to get used to that when I was first traveling there. I had it in my head that it was a lot further than it really was because I had the proportions wrong. Once I was able to compare more accurately, and put it in proper perspective, it made it a lot easier to estimate how far I could travel in a more realistic manner.
When I looked at the new map and looked at the distances, I realized I could take Errin & Grace to not only Germany but a bit of France and the Netherlands as well. I decided that would be really great. It was close enough to include that, and since we were soooooo close to Scotland…why not go there as well!
Airfare between Aberdeen and Amsterdam is quite reasonable and is a very short flight as well. Since I love Scotland so much, and there is oh-so-much of our ancestry there to share with the girls, I couldn’t possibly imagine not stopping to visit our cousin Lindsay when we were oh-so-close!
So…back to the fight searching…
I managed to find 3 airline tickets (1 using award miles and 2 that I purchased) heading to the same place! It’s not exactly the same flight, however. We all leave Portland about the same time, but I fly to Dublin via Chicago and they fly to Dublin via San Francisco where we will meet up again and all fly on the same flight on the final leg to Aberdeen. This is working out nicely! I wished that I could get them on the same flight as mine, but it was cost prohibitive, so I went with the next best option.
We’ll spend about a week in Scotland; I’ll take them to our ancestral home of Dingwall straightway to experience and see that most important destination, and also visit a castle or two and a lovely garden along the way to and fro from Aberdeen.
At the end of the week, we’ll fly to Amsterdam and start working our way south to Bavaria along the Rhine, circle around over to Paris and then back up to Amsterdam for about 3 weeks’ time total. We’ll catch a flight back to Aberdeen to spend another glorious 2 weeks unveiling other treasures I’ve discovered in Scotland during my previous visits which I really want to share with them.
One daydream idea which pops up year-after-year is the fact that I want to stay for a really long time, in fact, as long as I possibly can! The three of us will be gone about 6 weeks; 3 on the continent and 3 in Scotland, but when they fly home at the end of August, I’m going to stay on with Lindsay for another month until the end of September! This daydream that has turned into a trip is definitely going to be really great for the three of us and one that I’m sure we’ll long remember.
My next step in planning is to secure the rest of the lodgings we will need. I have 6 weeks to fill. The second week we’ll be on the continent is already scheduled at the timeshare resort in Bavaria and the time in Scotland will be spent at Lindsay’s and a couple of B&B’s I know of that I can reserve, but I needed to find lodging for 2 more weeks while we’re in Amsterdam, Cologne, all along the Rhine River, and don’t forget – Paris!
I really enjoy staying at the YHA Youth hostels and the girls want to try it a try as well. You meet the nicest people at them; travelers like yourself from all over the world. It’s quite an experience in itself and I think they are particularly looking forward to that unique aspect of staying in hostels. To find hostels in Germany I went online to Hostelling International and Hostel World, as is my usual practice, and started to search.
The hostels can fill up fast, especially in very desirable locations, like major cities which are quite popular with the younger travelers, so it’s advisable to book them in advance and they reserve them for you for a nominal deposit.
When I looked at the websites’ maps of all the hostels there are in Germany and what I had to choose from, I was astonished how many there are. If my memory serves me correctly, Germany was the country that came up with the idea in the first place. The map view of the hostels looked as though there was one about every 5 miles!
To my satisfaction, I easily found one every step of the way along my desired route and also had the pleasure of selecting from several choices at each location. After a short while online, I had them all booked and reserved for the first week between Amsterdam and Bavaria. One of the hostels I found is even an old castle! How cool is that? I’m really glad we were able to book that one in particular! Now for Paris!
One of my favorite hostels, Le Village in Montmartre at the foot of Sacre Coeur, was also available like I was hoping it would be. I think the girls are really going to love that location! It’s the perfect spot to explore Paris from and it’s up on a hill so you can get a great view of the city spread out before you from there.
I also found a room at another great hostel in Amsterdam, one that I stayed at this year right next to Vondelpark – a perfect location! It all worked out just great!
Now that I have all of the lodging and airfare booked I can start filling in details of places to go visit in Scotland, & add sights of interest to our map. We will keep doing our research adding things to be sure to visit as we find them over the course of the winter. It will be a fun project filling up our summer holiday plans with all kinds of exciting stuff!
An attitude of Gratitude ~ I am ever so thankful to have Errin & Grace to share my next adventure with me. I look forward to sharing all the fantastic treasures in Scotland I’ve discovered on past excursions and then also discovering new places and things together in Germany. Afterall, that’s what it is all about – making lasting memories together!