Our family would have been in Europe right now.
Marci and I announced it to our kids on Christmas morning. The three and a half weeks immediately following Elliot’s graduation were to be a time of travel and celebration. We were going back to the Continent where our family was formed, where Olivia and Cor were born, and where many of our friends still live.
We planned to visit Holland because it used to be home. Scotland made the itinerary because it’s become one of my favorite places on earth after just a couple of visits and because we have friends who live there — but it would have been new to most of the family. Wales would have been a new adventure for all of us. We were pretty excited about the trip.
But then the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the world. We recognize that losing a vacation is not nearly as sad as losing one’s health or losing a beloved family member. Still, we’ve been grieving the loss of our family adventure (or at least its postponement).
To observe what might have been, however, we decided to take a few days to travel to several of the places within driving distance of northeast Ohio which have Scottish, Welsh, and Dutch names. And to make it more fun, in each place, we challenged ourselves to enjoy a Snapshot, a Snack, and a Song connected to the place name.
Setting out from Kent in the morning, we only had to drive 25 minutes before we arrived in Edinburg, Ohio (population 2,586). The capital of Scotland includes an “h” at the end of its name, and it seems that most of its Scottish character must come from that “h.” Because there’s not much that’s Scottish about Edinburg, Ohio. We snapped a photo at the gazebo beside the town’s central intersection.
We ate some Walker’s Scottish Shortbread that we had picked up at our local grocery store before our trip started.
We went into the local hardware store, just to see what there was to see. And then we listened to “On the Bonnie, Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond” as we merged back onto Interstate 76 East.
From Edinburg, Ohio, we traveled due east, about forty-five minutes, to Edinburg Township in Pennsylvania (population 2,814). Again, no “h” at the end of the town name; again, not much Scottish flavor to the town. We snapped a photo at the post office. We finished off the last of the Walker’s Scottish Shortbread and tasted some Glenmorangie Scotch Whiskey. After walking up and down the town’s Main Street, we played “500 Miles” on the car’s audio system as we set out on our way again.
From Edinburg, Pennsylvania, we traveled due north, about an hour, to Edinboro, Pennsylvania (population 6,438). This town actually more closely approximates the Scottish pronunciation of its capital city, with a derivative spelling. But it still wasn’t very Scottish. The university in town, however, leaned more heavily into its Scottish spirit — so we decided that our third “Edinburgh” of the day was our favorite.
We had some lunch at the Dairy Supreme (I ordered a foot-long hot dog and a vanilla malt, which I’m sure are very traditional food items in Scotland). As we drove through the streets of this pretty lakeside town, we played a bagpipe rendition of “Amazing Grace” as our musical tribute. And then we were on our way again.
After lunch, we drove mostly east (and a little bit north) into Western New York for almost two hours. Holland, New York (population 3,401) happens to be located immediately adjacent to Wales, New York (population 3,005), so it seemed like the perfect location. We chose to set up our base of operations at an AirBnB in the countryside just southeast of Wales.
In the evening, we drove west to Holland, New York. It seemed to be the most enthusiastic about its European namesake, out of all the places that we visited. So we snapped several photos around town.
We had a very nice dinner at the Holland Hotel. We didn’t plan it this way, but the timing of our visit coincided with the the first stages of re-opening New York State’s restaurants. So crowds were very minimal. Workers and customers were all very mindful of wearing masks and maintaining six feet of separation at all times. And it felt like a festive occasion, coming out from (hopefully) the worst of the pandemic.
Driving out of town, we listened to some of our favorite music collected from our years in Amsterdam. And then we headed north to find our last “country” of the day.
We made it to Wales right as the sun was starting to set. There’s not much to the “Town of Wales” except for some border signs. So we snapped our photo at the border sign.
We ate some homemade Welsh Cakes and sipped some Welsh Brew tea (ordered from the internet). And we reflected on what really did end up being a fun day. It was nowhere near as grand an adventure as the European destinations would have been — but it was still a thoroughly enjoyable (and affordable) day as a family.
As we drove further through the countryside around Wales, we played some music by my favorite new Welsh artist Cynefin (he’s seriously great!). We picked up some groceries for the rest of our little vacation and then went back to our cabin for the night.
Three “Edinburgh”s before lunch, plus an evening in Holland and Wales can tire a family out.