Thursday 26 Apr, 2012

Familiar Faces Around the World

EF Tour Director, Pascal Wilson

EF Tour Director, Pascal Wilson

As a veteran EF group leader, I am sure to run into people I have met on past tours when I return to the same travel destinations. Believe it or not, I have also run into people from my small town while traveling abroad. In 1989, when my students and I were staying at a bed & breakfast in Winchester, England, the previous day’s guests included a couple who live just one house away from me. Just last month, when we were in London’s Trafalgar Square, some of my students ran into a parent who lives across the street from me. She was on another tour with her children who attend an out-of-town private school. Apparently, my neighbors are well-traveled. On my recent spring break tour to England and Scotland, I had a reunion with five wonderful people. I could not help but recall the chorus to the 1979 Peaches & Herb song, Reunited, which begins with, “Reunited and it feels so good.” It did feel good to see them again.

On my group’s arrival day at our hotel in London, I ran into Pascal Wilson, an EF tour director who was finishing a tour with his own group. I met Pascal almost ten years ago in Paris when I was an experienced group leader at my very first international training convention. Pascal was the tour director for that convention. He did a superb job and I remembered that many of the first-time group leaders wanted to request him for their own tours. At the hotel later that night, Pascal introduced me to one of his group leaders, who was on her first tour. I’m sure Pascal will get a future request from one of his many group leaders on that tour. I would love to write a future post about Pascal. (If you come across this blog post, Pascal, please contact me.)

EF Coach Driver, Mick

EF Coach Driver, Mick

On our sightseeing day of London, with an excursion to Windsor Castle, I recognized our coach driver, a very nice gentleman named Mick. (I wish I could remember his last name!) Even though we did not recognize each other immediately, we both remembered being together for a 10-day tour of England called “King Arthur’s Britain,” my first EF tour in March 1994. I wrote about Mick in my October 13, 2011 post, “Tipping on Your Tour.” On that tour, he received a cache of coins collected by my students in a baseball cap without my prompting or knowledge. I enjoyed talking to Mick about all the touring he has done in the past eighteen years.

On the morning of our sightseeing day in Edinburgh, we went to West Register House, part of the National Archives of Scotland, to pick up two individuals. They were Dave Stalker, a Scottish Blue Badge Tourist Guide, and my daughter, Ruth, a Saltire Scholar who is completing a master’s degree at Edinburgh Napier University. Many years ago, Ruth was a high school student in my tour group when we first met Dave, who is featured in my November 24, 2011, post, “Giving Thanks.

Dave Stalker and Ruth

Me with Dave Stalker and Ruth

I was certainly thankful to see them both that morning. While they were waiting for our coach, Ruth struck up a conversation with Dave, who told me later that he wondered why a young attractive woman would want to talk to him before she mentioned our family connection. Once again, Dave gave my group an enthusiastic, funny, and illuminating tour of Edinburgh. After I returned home, Dave sent me an e-mail to let me know that he and his wife would be glad to help Ruth if she needed it during her time in Scotland. Dave is more than a tour guide to me; he’s become my friend as well.

I was also thankful to have Tony McGrath as my tour director last month. He is featured in my December 23, 2010 post, “Favorite Tour Director: The Man from Manchester.” It was our 7th tour together and one of the very best. Our top tour experiences with Tony included attending the Choral Evensong service at York Minster that was sung by the Minster Choir and the boy choristers (we even sat right behind them in the choir stalls), going on a nearly three-mile hike along a stretch of Hardian’s Wall after it had snowed the previous day, celebrating Scottish culture and music at our private ceilidh evening, and enjoying an amusing and sometimes scary ghost walk with two charming actors in the Old Town section of Edinburgh.

My Chief Chaperone, Dannie, and Tony McGrath

My Chief Chaperone, Dannie, and Tony McGrath

I cannot say (or write) enough good things about Tony. Along with several people in my group who have enjoyed previous tours with him, I was absolutely thrilled to be back on tour with him, One adult tour participant, Josh Evans, was a senior in high school when he went on a customized tour of Scotland with Tony and me. On our 2006 tour with Tony, Josh purchased a kilt and even wore it to the prom after we returned home. We all felt a bit sad to say good-bye to Tony at the airport. At a recent recruitment meeting for our 2013 spring break tour, one of my students provided a testimonial about why she wants to travel on another EF tour. Most of her glowing compliments centered on our tour director, Tony McGrath.

Ruth and I reunited, hugging

Ruth and I reunited

While I was writing this post, I voted in a poll sponsored by IndependentTraveler.com to answer the question, “Do you like returning to a place you’ve already been before?” My selected response, “If I really love a place, I’ll go back many times,” has received 68.29% of the total votes cast to date. There you have it. I’m certainly not alone in wanting to return again and again to these much-loved and familiar places, and to perhaps see some familiar and friendly faces as well.

Readers, have you ever run into people you know while traveling? Do you like returning to a place you’ve already been before?

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(Editor’s note: If you have a question about for EF Group Leader Gail Ingram, or an idea for a blog post topic, you can email Gail here, and she will answer readers’ questions in future blog posts.)

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