|©2000 Photo: Robert Altman|
I was fed up playing stranger in a strange land. I had been traveling solo in Spain for several weeks now. Alone. So all alone.
Starved for anything social I welcomed even a glance from anyone or anything! Big city folks are real busy in Madrid. Way too busy to notice the likes of me.
At long last I was finally being sought out in this little cafe. Who cared if it was in error. Not only that, but I was being spoken to in my own language!
"Stephen? Are you Stephen?"
"Should I be?"
Well, what could I do but coquettishly apologize for not being Stephen. I decided to place myself at a counter stool conveniently two seats away from this pleasant American couple, Bob & Randa. Now I tried to figure some way to metamorphosize myself into Stephen. That's how hungry I was for conversation.
I quickly quaff my cafe con leche. I oiled my way slowly toward the exit in order to pass this couple once more. Maybe they'll talk to me again. I blurt out something inane. "That damn Stephen. Never on time." This was their cue to tell me that this tardy fellow was expected to arrive sporting a black carrying case shouldered upon a green jacket.
I look down. That fits me to a tee.
They describe reading Rick Steves' tour book. An eccentric Irish tour guide of the back channels of unknown Madrid, Stephen, is lauded in Rick's book. He will lure us with his siren wit through mystical alleys, pubs with wine and tapas, then summon history you'd never read about in Fodors. Would I care to join them?
Just then yet the most charming ebullient red head, Jayne Ardo, prances by. In no time she and her elegant daughter Amanda Rosen join our fortunate few. Then another couple. Same damn book!
Bottom line- the folks you see above collided at precisely the same place and time. From all over the USA they had unknowingly amassed. Conjugated via one singular notion- "Rick Steves knows best." Descending upon Spain, in fact Madrid, its cognate neighborhood, indeed, the exact hotel and for all I know maybe the same damn floor, the accidental rendezvous. A tryst in time. Seems I was the only exception. The outsider. No book. They let me join their excloo club anyway.
Since none of them forgot to tote their precious tour Bible I could not resist the photo op.
Stephen actually did turn up and off we went. Worth it too!
I would be remiss if I did not further glorify the real "Stephen."
When you meet Mr. Stephen Drake-Jones yourself, and you really must, you will find he has no trouble at all blowing his own horn, thank you.
As chairman of The Wellington Society you may contact him yourself at Chairman@wellsoc.org