A Close Call and a Close Encounter.

As regulars here know, I almost always travel alone. Perhaps it’s just me, but I find I meet more people along the way, both fellow travelers and locals, and that makes any trip much more interesting.

It certainly describes my trip to London, Scotland and France last Fall.

The trip began with a very nice cross-country ride on the Zephyr from the Bay Area to Chicago and then the Cardinal from Chicago to Washington.

It was at Dulles airport that I literally came within a minute or so of missing my flight to London. At the Icelandair counter I had to present the results of a lab test showing I was COVID free before they would let me on the plane.  I had that, but trouble came when I had to show the airline that I had gone on-line and filed the results of that test along with a lot of personal information with the U.K. government. Every attempt to file that information was rejected by the government’s computer and when the form reappeared it was blank . . . to be filled out from scratch all over again.

Meanwhile, my flight had started boarding and I was the only one left at the counter, with a young airline employee anxiously looking over my shoulder. 

Then he said, “Look there on the form where you enter your personal identity code . . .”  (it was a string of a dozen letters and numbers) . . .  “try substituting a zero for the capital O.”

BINGO! This time the form was accepted. I pressed a $20 bill into the kid’s hand and dashed for the gate. I was the last passenger to board.

After Edinburgh and London, I spent several days down near the French-Spanish border in the magnificent Pyrenees mountain range. There was another very chilly ride on the Little Yellow Train . . . chilly because I elected to ride in one of the open cars. It was worth the discomfort, however, because I was able to really appreciate the magnitude of the undertaking when this line was constructed back in the very early 1900s.

From there it was three nights in the medieval town of Domme, off the beaten path in central France. It was my fourth visit to the wonderful 15-room Hotel L’Esplanade, which offers guests a very special view of the Dordogne River Valley (photo above). 

On my first night there, I was having dinner in the hotel dining room when the owner/manager of hotel, Madame Sophie, came over to my table.

“Monsieur Loomis,” she said, “I have just discovered that the people at a table near you are from Maui.”

Imagine that! Here we are, having dinner in a small hotel well off the beaten path in France and three of us—total strangers—are all from the same tiny island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, twelve time zones away . . . literally halfway around the world from where we were sitting. It makes you wonder how often something like that happens whenever we travel and each party is blissfully unaware. Don’t spend a lot of time pondering that thought . . . it’ll make you crazy!