A sad goodbye to Goecco. You were one of the best!

The best travel tour I ever took doesn’t exist anymore. All that is left are the memories of one spectacular two day adventure that I’ll never be able to duplicate. I should be happy that I still have the photos to fill in the spaces as my memory fades but today I’m sad.

We are scheduled to go to Scotland this coming August but with the continued uptick in positive COVID-19 cases and delayed re-opening of the entire world, it is becoming less likely that we will be able to go on our planned vacation. While I’ve spent months meticulously planning every moment of our trip, at least for now, the itinerary will remain untested. Probably. I’m still holding out hope that with a negative COVID-19 test in hand, we might still be able to go.

But, practicality is taking over and I’ve started looking at alternatives. Maybe an elaborate staycation exploring those more remote areas of Maine that we can’t easily get to during day trips or long weekends. It’s on the list of possibilities. Or, maybe a quarantine friendly destination, if any really exist. A remote island perhaps?  I’m not typically a beach girl but I can adapt.

As I researched alternative options, I came across a random search result that Iceland is allowing travelers into the country as long as they get tested for COVID-19 upon arrival. Right now, entry is limited to EEA and EFTA countries although they will be issuing new guidelines on July 1 and potentially expanding entry to other countries. With the United State’s current spike, we may be barred from that expansion list but maybe we’ll make the nice list.

Obviously, the current pandemic leaves our plans in flux and we won’t be able to make a final decision until much closer to our actual departure date. As part of my Plan B research, I decided to see what my favorite tour company might be offering for late summer adventures in Iceland. My previous trip to Iceland had been in January. I’d love to see Iceland during the summer although I’d go back in January too. It was spectacular.

I did a quick google search for Goecco. The usual SEO heavy hitters, TripAdvisor and LinkedIn, rose to the top but no website. Hmm. Maybe they re-branded. It has been five years since my previous visit.

More internet searching only uncovered a domain name for sale and broken links on every reference or article I could find posted by happy bloggers and travel review sites.  A few of the later TripAdvisor reviews indicated last minute cancellations and a possible bankruptcy. I know I shouldn’t be surprised. Businesses fail all the time. They fade away. But, I wasn’t ready for this tour to be a memory. I was ready to schedule my next adventure.

Instead, my memories will have to be enough.

Here is the memory that will stay with me forever. After landing in Iceland, we headed to the bus station to wait for the Goecco jeep to pick us up. There is always that moment of fear that no matter how well planned something will go wrong and we’ll be stranded: no tour, no hotel, no place to go. Abandoned in a tiny bus station in a foreign city where it’s too early for anything but the coffee shop to be open.

Fortunately, the jeep eventually showed up. With some difficulty, our luggage was loaded up into the storage containers strapped to the roof and we were ready to meet our fellow passengers. We spent the day driving south exploring ice caves and black beaches, climbing up to frozen waterfalls and visiting with Icelandic horses.

After a full day, we arrived at base camp. The simple white, two-story building seemed so small sitting quietly in front of the snow covered mountains and rugged landscape beyond but somehow it fit perfectly in that space.  It was an old camp that the tour company had bought and converted into accommodations for their tour guests. There were no other guests. It was just us. After dragging our luggage up the narrow staircase and settling into our room, we grabbed our wine and headed to the common area.

The tour guides were preparing a traditional Icelandic meal for us in the kitchen and the long family style dining table was set and ready for conversation. The wine allowed me to be more adventurous with food than usual. I confidently swallowed the gelatinous sheep’s head that was offered as an appetizer letting it slide down my throat without having to actually taste it. I opted not to try the fermented shark. There isn’t enough wine for that.

We all pitched in on the cleanup. There was ping-pong, more wine and lots of conversation. We stayed up way too late. Drank too much. Laughed a lot. One of the guides sang us an Icelandic drinking song that sounded suspiciously like “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain'”.

We felt like we were visiting friends and not as if we were on the first day of a random tour with strangers.

I think it is impossible to know in the middle of a moment the significance it will have in your life. Some moments that you think you’ll never forget do eventually fade or get relegated to just a footnote. Others that seem insignificant never actually leave you and some just make you smile when you think of them even years after they happen. This tour was one of the latter. It always makes me smile when I think about it.

RIP Goecco. Vagabond Tours, please don’t go. I have happy memories of my time in Ireland with you too. But, that’s a story for another day.

Do you have a favorite tour or travel adventure?

 

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An infographic on spending a fun filled socially distanced weekend in Maine.

During my first year of blogging, I created an infographic that highlighted how to spend a perfect weekend in Portland, Maine.  Now that we’re all staying home and access to public spaces is more limited due to the pandemic, I thought it would be fun to create a new infographic focused on how to spend a perfect socially distanced weekend in Maine.

Even if we can’t currently visit our local restaurants, breweries, museums, shops and all the other amazing places that Maine has to offer there are still many ways to support our local businesses while practicing social distancing and having a great time.

The links to all of the sites mentioned in the infographic are listed at the bottom of the blog post. Wishing everyone a fun filled virtual weekend!

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Summer hiking is finally here as we head up to Carabasset Valley.

I’ll admit it. The mosquitoes win. They may be small but they are relentless. It’s the reason we rarely hike during the spring. It’s just not worth it.

No matter how many layers of all natural insect repellent I put on, it’s just never enough. I know something more high-test with deet might do a better job but I’m not a fan so instead we mostly avoid the woods during these months. But now that summer is here, we’re heading out to the trails again which is a good thing. I did not move nearly enough this winter and am excited to get back into our hiking routine.

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Spending the Morning Strawberry Picking at Maxwell’s Farm in Cape Elizabeth

I originally posted this blog a few years ago and have updated it for the current strawberry season. I picked my strawberries this morning and I’m getting ready for another round of pie making today.

One of the many joys of summer is that it is berry filled. The end of June is the kick-off to strawberry season here in Maine. There is nothing better than enjoying them freshly picked, but you have to be quick. At only 3 to 4 weeks long, the strawberry season is short, like most things in Maine.

The strawberry season generally runs from the end of June to the end of July. This year was a really late start because of our rainy, cool spring but they’re finally ripe now.

Last year on July 4th weekend, my youngest daughter and I ventured out to Maxwell’s Farm in Cape Elizabeth and picked a heaping flat of strawberries. Fresh strawberries are amazing, but you need to enjoy them as soon as possible after picking. The shelf life is short-lived which is generally not a problem at my house because they are devoured rapidly especially around the Fourth when we usually have a full house.

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10 Maine Adventures on My Bucket List for 2019

For the last few years I have been putting together an annual bucket list of things I want to do in Maine for the upcoming year. It’s a fun exercise that gets me thinking about the adventures that we want to have and the places we want to visit.

This past year was especially challenging and we actually got through only a couple of things on the list which does make me wonder if perhaps a bucket list is not the best approach but I’m going to give it one more shot.

Below is a list of ten things on my bucket list for the coming year. Many are ones we didn’t get to last year although I’ve added a few new ones into the mix. Here’s hoping we have better results this time around.

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