If you’ve guessed that this had nothing to do with anything on my end, you’re right.
That’s because I prepare, and often over-prepare, for trips that last more than a day. Years ago, I had a boss in Hollywood who literally packed her suitcase for the Cannes Film Festival in the back seat of a car while being driven to the airport. She laughed about it, but I swore that I was never going to be anything like her.
Indeed, I’m prone to making detailed packing lists, which include hair ties, mint tea and exactly how many pairs of underwear to roll up in my large duffel bag. There’s also triple checking my wallet to ensure I have the right identification to board a plane. These days, my COVID vaccination card comes along, too.
But before doing any of this, I needed to confirm that my best friend and another dear friend, who both live in the Seattle area, were going to be around.
In fact, hanging with them was the reason for this destination.
That’s because I hadn’t seen either of them for a very long time—one when I got married 17 years ago, and the other in over a decade. Taking in the sights of Seattle was going to be fun, but really, just the cherry on the cake.
Both said yes.
That meant the Hubster could now buy plane tickets. Also, I could scout for an Airbnb. Since I’d planned to spend a lot of time with my best friend, I booked one near her place. We couldn’t stay with her because her house is undergoing massive renovations, but I wasn’t worried.
I expected the accommodations to work out.
In fact, I was especially pleased with my host’s excellent communication, who confirmed availability in the affirmative less than 30 seconds after I emailed her to see if her listing was open. That should have been a warning, but I was
so happy to find a townhouse close to my best friend—and at an amazing price of $50 per night—that I ignored my
The first snag happened a few days before our non-refundable flight.
My best friend told me someone close to her had attended a super-spreader event. Despite being vaccinated and taking precautions, he now had COVID. By week’s end, she had the virus as well, and was feeling so rotten that she had to be taken to a hospital emergency room in the middle of the night.
I did get to see her, because we took an Uber from the airport to her house to pick up her mini-van, which she had generously offered us during our time in the area.
But we couldn’t hug, and only spoke briefly through our N-95 masks. We had been planning to have dinner that night and in a few days, go sailing at a nearby lake. Neither was going to happen now.
The next stop was the Airbnb.
In some ways, the description was accurate: we dropped our bags in a light-filled bedroom in a townhouse. But sitting in cheap canvas chairs on the balcony, we watched termites as they plainly came out of the woodwork. Also, while the amenities were pretty much as advertised, I was taken aback by an inch-sized cigarette hole burned into one of the bed sheets. A few other things: the place was lick-and-promise clean, but the carpet was deeply stained; the stairs were much steeper than pictured, and the neighborhood was a hard-scrabble one.
Still, our smiling host stopped in every day, although she never stayed long. We assumed this place generated extra income because she didn’t seem to live there, and also had a long-term tenant in another bedroom. When I saw the light of the big TV on in the living room in the middle of the night, I figured the renter liked late-night viewing.
We spent the next few days in Seattle, and this part was terrific.
The weather was picture perfect—blue skies with puffy clouds and temperatures in the low 80s. First on our list was the Museum of History and Industry, better known as MOHAI and adjacent to a large marina. This proved to be a perfect starting point, because it was here we learned about the history of Seattle, including early industries that included logging and fishing. I also enjoyed MOHAI’s take on the 1961 World’s Fair, which was held in Seattle, and both of us loved the touring Ansel Adams exhibit.
Later that day, we headed to the elegant Smith Tower, Seattle’s first skyscraper and for decades, the tallest building west of the Mississippi River. An upscale bar and restaurant are on the 35th floor, and after a gourmet snack, we walked around the open-air viewing deck for a clear, 360-degree view of Seattle.
The next day was a visit to Volunteer Park, home of a stunning historical greenhouse and botanical garden that we strolled end-to-end. Beautifully maintained multi-million-dollar homes in this area sit on streets shaded by mature trees, giving the location an aura of tradition and gentility. We also ventured to the very crowded Pike Public Market, founded in 1907 and one of the oldest and largest continuously operating public markets in the United States. Across the street, we had lunch at Maiz, a hole-in-the-wall tortilleria where I had the best beef tacos in my life.
But I was especially looking forward to our next day.
We were going to get up early and grab a ferry to Vashon Island, a 20-minute ride away from Seattle. This place is also where my other dear friend lives.
But upon returning from the Public Market, I got a text.
My friend had gone to a large gathering the night before, where she had hugged and talked and interacted with many people she hadn’t seen in months. Now, she reported, many of those friends were feeling sick and testing positive for COVID. Even though she was negative, did we want to take the chance?
Given our age and other health considerations, the answer was no.
We spent our last few days doing unscheduled stuff, including a trip back to Volunteer Park where the Asian Art Museum is located. That was wonderful, but I would have preferred to see my Vashon friend. We also found a terrific Thai restaurant near our Airbnb, and had a relaxing picnic in a nearby park.
Before heading out for breakfast on our last and final day, our Airbnb host showed up. We found out then that we had been staying in her bedroom, and that it was she who had been coming in every night to watch TV before falling asleep on the couch. We also realized she was pregnant.
That’s when I decided that while I could never stay there again, I couldn’t write a negative review.
As a friend who also hosts for Airbnb in another city wrote me, “I think a pregnant woman working two jobs and giving up her bedroom for $50 a night really needs the money.” So, instead, I focused on the cost of the townhouse.
Now that I’ve had time to think about our time in Seattle, it wasn’t awful. It just wasn’t what we had planned.
To this end, we turned a lemony vacation into lemonade. And for that, I’m grateful.
Have you ever taken a holiday that took an unexpected turn, either for good or bad? I look forward to your comments!