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Escapes: Scotland’s unexpectedly great food is a fare to remember

From atop Calton Hill at sunset, Edinburgh promises memorable culinary experiences.
From atop Calton Hill at sunset, Edinburgh promises memorable culinary experiences.
(Joe Daniel Price / Getty Images)

It’s just about dinnertime as I write this, and I’m wishing I were in Scotland, partly because it’s not 100 degrees there. In fact, the forecast for Edinburgh’s weekend calls for partly cloudy with highs in the 60s and a chance of haggis.

But it’s only a small chance. More likely you will have something elegant if you follow our guide to dining well and enjoying a reinvigorated cuisine.

My name is Catharine Hamm, and I’m the travel editor for the Los Angeles Times. If we were to rank the reasons we travel, I’d put “being surprised” at the top of my list, and Scotland did that for one writer. Central Washington did it for another traveler and a darkened LAX office startled a third, and not in a good way.

We bring you all this, plus cycling in Sacramento, a sweet but sad tale of spies and, in the End paper (after my ongoing plea to subscribe to our newsletters and more), a reason to be kind to your fellow traveler.

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Quickly now and maybe the haste with which we move will create a small breeze to cool us.

In Scotland, the unexpected

LAT staffer Alice Short is blessed with a gentle humor, but when it comes to food, she’s as serious as a physics lecture. So, no, she’s not pulling your leg when she writes that she liked haggis, which she sampled on a recent trip to Scotland. And she’s also not kidding about the continued upswing in Scotland’s culinary fortunes. Serendipity and intense research guided her on this trip, and she opens some doors to memorable eating in the land of lochs and Burns.

It’s empty but full of life

Here’s what you’ll find in an area that’s usually a big empty: a world-class performance venue; first-rate wine; vistas and rock climbing that take your breath away. Writer John Nelson introduces us to the coulees (deep ravines) of Washington state in a piece that opened my eyes (again) to the idea that a place that looks like nothing is often quite something.

Washington’s Dry Falls
Visitors take in the view at Washington’s Dry Falls, which was once the world’s largest waterfall during Ice Age floods that carved Grand Coulee.
(John Nelson)

LAX Global Entry office closed; now what?

We owe a debt of gratitude to reader Stephanie Smith. Smith had received an appointment reminder from Global Entry to complete her application. When she arrived at the office, it was closed. She emailed us Friday to tell us what happened. At first we thought she might have gone to the wrong place; the Global Entry office moved last year to La Cienega Boulevard. But she was at the right place at what should have been the right time, and it was locked. Read Christopher Reynolds’ story about why this is happening and what you can do to cope.

Marriott makes inroads into the O.C.

If you’re headed to the happiest place on Earth next winter, you’ll have a new hotel to consider when you make reservations for lodging. JW Marriott will open a 466-room hotel less than 10 minutes from Disneyland and less than a mile from the Anaheim Convention Center. Rates will start at $200 a night, Mary Forgione writes.

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JW Marriott in Orange County
The first JW Marriott in Orange County is less than a 10-minute drive from Disneyland. It is to open early next year.
(JW Marriott, Anaheim Resort)

You paid but you’re not getting the PreCheck perk?

We hear occasionally from readers who say they paid for PreCheck and aren’t getting it on their boarding pass, which means they have to go through the semi-striptease at the Transportation Security Administration’s security checkpoint. Here’s a primer on ways you may be missing out, some of it your own doing and some of it not.

TSA Pre-Check
Tess Richards  For The Times
(Tess Richards / For The Times)

In Sacramento, a little exercise, a lot of outdoors

You don’t have to be as fit as a Tour de France participant nor does your bike need to be a high-tech marvel to enjoy a ride along Sacramento’s American River Parkway. Dorothy O’Donnell writes about knocking a little rust off her bike and herself to take a trip that included turkeys, deer, turtles, rabbits and snakes as well as plenty of places to admire the wildlife (although admiring a snake is a dubious expenditure of time in my book).

Terrain along the mostly flat Sacramento trails varies from open field to oak forests.
Terrain along the mostly flat Sacramento trails varies from open fields to shady oak forests.
(Dorothy O’Donnell)

A dino no longer

At 23, Universal’s Jurassic Park ride was a dinosaur by theme park standards. Not anymore. Like many in Hollywood, it’s had a little work done, thanks to technology, and reopened July 12 with new thrills and chills for fans of the movie franchise, Hugo Martin writes.

To the moon — and beyond!

They’re called moon trees. They grew from seeds that astronaut Stuart Roosa carried on Apollo 14 in his 1971 trip to the moon. Five years later, those seeds were given to American communities, Mary Forgione writes. In California, these trees are now mighty redwoods. Here’s where to find them.

What we’re reading

It’s not every day that I sit around the office and read a book, but I couldn’t put down “Ten Years a Nomad,” by Matthew Kepnes. Two things stand out as he recounts his wandering ways. The first is his honesty, which is sometimes brutal. He has flaws. He screws up. He owns all of it. The second is the simplicity and resulting elegance of his prose. This book isn’t just for travelers; it’s for anyone who has wanted more and has taken off to find it.

Travel stinks but only in the odoriferous sense. It’s a smell that seems to follow you wherever you go and you wonder where it’s coming from. Then you realize it’s coming from you. Writing for Smarter Travel, Caroline Morse Teel offers scientific reasons for why you aren’t exactly daisy fresh, including skipping meals and being dehydrated, and tells you how to counteract the effects.

“Her young sons, Sara assures me, already know how to pick the best fish from the market.” That’s the kicker on a Saveur article by Julia Cooke, writing about Estoril, Portugal, and it was just one of the delights of that piece. Estoril used to be a hangout for spies, scoundrels and socialites. Now it’s a remnant, if not quite a prisoner, of its past but charmingly so. Well reported and written and, unlike the spies, not disingenuous.

Can love last?

In the newsletter of July 18, we quoted Maureen Di Domenico of Costa Mesa on her experience visiting Matera, Italy. She was reacting to our story about the Southern Italian town and said her 2003 trip there, when it was largely undiscovered by the outside world, was one of the most amazing of her many trips to Italy. I mentioned that embracing a new destination was a little like falling in love and asked readers whether that first rush of affection would endure.

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Here was a delightful response.

“You asked if a feeling can be recaptured a second time around,” reader Rae Walker of Woodland Hills wrote. “I would like to give a resounding yes!

“Just as you would return to an art museum to see a favorite work of art, the destination of a vacation has the same draw and reaction when you return many years later, depending on your personal circumstances.

“There is a difference when you return because you are older, perhaps wiser and have seen other places that have added to your collective memory [with] which to compare.

“As an example, I recently returned to Venice, Italy, after 45 years, and my [goal] was not to revisit the past, although I was curious about what I would remember and what may have changed. But my interests had grown as my circumstances had changed. I was older, retired and had money to spend, which I did not have in my 20s.

“This time, I was drawn to other venues that did not exist in my world [then], such as hotels versus campgrounds!

“I still immensely enjoyed the water, landscape, people, language, food, architecture and art as before.

“I believe that you do change over time — everything does— and staleness exists only in a person who is just not ready to return to the past yet be in the present.”

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Thank you for this. Readers, do you agree?

Subscribe already

Have you noticed our new look online? (If not, go to latimes.com or latimes.com/travel.) We recently changed content management systems and, thanks to some major improvements, our online product has never looked better. Just perusing the Tuesday afternoon home page, I found a plethora of must-read articles, including the $100-million renovation of Dodger Stadium, the intrigue of what’s going on at the DWP and the DMV, and the threat of another wildfire season complicated by staff shortages. And that was just the start.

We’d like everyone to start subscribing because it gives all of us a framework for life in this crazy town. Plus it pays some of our bills. And it’s a deal: latimes.com/subscriptions/land-subscribe-evergreen/. Three out of three is pretty darn good.

You also can subscribe to this and other newsletters, which are worth it at twice the price. (OK, they’re free.) Check here for details: membership.latimes.com/newsletters/

Meanwhile, our public email folders are back, and you can share your opinions about this newsletter, the heat wave and what you’d do with $100 million. (Like Dodger Stadium, I’d spend at least part of that on a little renovation of my own.) Write to travel@latimes.com.

We thank you.

End paper

The man looked confused. He had asked directions from a bystander, then hesitantly entered the crosswalk at Patsaouras Bus Plaza at L.A. Union Station, then headed for the far side.

Something told me he was looking for the LAX Flyaway Bus (it was my amazing intuition plus he was rolling a suitcase), which isn’t around back but somewhere near Bay 2 in the front part of the plaza.

I tapped him on the shoulder and asked whether he needed help. “FlyAway,” he said. I motioned him to follow me and we sat down at Bay 2. While we waited, I asked where he was from. “Japan,” he said quietly. He was going home after a business trip.

A bus pulled up that wasn’t the usual FlyAway but it had a window placard saying it was, so I approached, the man close behind me, and asked whether this was the right bus. It was. He asked hesitantly, “Terminal 2?” Yes, the ticket taker said. We shook hands, I wished him safe travels and he climbed aboard.

I don’t usually pursue people who look lost because usually I’m the one who is lost. He was about my age, which is to say not a pup, and had this look that said, “My English is limited. This public transportation thing isn’t exactly intuitive. If I make a mistake, I’m going to miss my flight and then what? I just want to go home.”

On this day, I wanted my home, our home — Los Angeles, California, the United States — to turn its kindest face to a stranger. Travel is like the construction of a sentence; the most important parts are at the beginning and the end. Together, as travelers and as human beings, our actions can be the last word.

And remember, no matter where you are, travel safely and well and know that we will always be here to welcome you home.


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