There are lots of Welshmen around, but I wasn’t the one. I was talking to Stephanie Abrams, the nationally syndicated US radio travel journalist, about the UK and her thoughts on the UK when the story of this elusive man arose.
Stephanie has a two-hour travel radio show on Saturdays and a three hour one on Sundays. Here she was at the New York Times Travel Show, headphones clapped to her ears, interviewing various travel industry figures. I was sandwiched in between her recordings which were taking place on a small stage at the end of one of the aisles at the show. She is forever traveling so it came as little surprise to learn that her recently published novel, Rumors, was a decade of gestation. Even then I’m surprised she found time to write it (it’s available over here via Amazon)
Stephanie has a wide radio audience: she has been to the UK many times and I thought who else could give me a good view of what Americans like about the UK. Especially since whatever she thinks is relayed to that large radio audience. But hardly had we started, when this anonymous Welshman loomed large in the conversation.
Who is he? She doesn’t know and that’s the problem.
The story goes that in 2010, she had been visiting Ireland from a London base and was catching the ferry back to Holyhead. After a day’s delay due to bad weather, she caught the train back to London arriving in Euston, tired after the long journey and not having her usual “Joie de vie.”
Waiting in a long line for a taxi, jaded and perhaps a little irritable at the delay in getting to the front she heard a man say: “I could never do this with my wife. But then, she’s always drunk.” As a conversation opener, this was pretty good. Stephanie laughed and the Welshman cheered her up with other witticisms until she felt more relaxed and less fed up with the world. As she took her taxi, he remarked that he lived on a mountain and she was welcome to stay because she was from Massachusetts and not one of those Brits that he’d instantly turn away. Laughing, she left without bothering to learn his name. And since then, she has been trying to find this man. So if you happen to know someone who lives up a Welsh mountain, is about 60 and six feet tall with pepper and salt hair who remembers a laughing American in a taxi rank at Euston…
Normally Stephanie collects details like names. She mentions good service on her programmes. Here is one other of her stories that reflect the very best in service we would like, but so rarely get, when we travel. Her husband is the photographer(I should have asked why a radio broadcaster needs a photographer, but listening to her stories it just slipped me by!) He had left his camera either on a train or in the taxi taking them to their hotel. The fact that there were hundreds of photographs sitting on the camera from their recent travels was much more important. They contacted lost property and had left details, but heard nothing before they left. A few weeks later on a return trip, they were reunited with the camera and the all-so-important pictures. What had happened was that the taxi man discovered them, took them to the hotel but because Stephanie and her husband had left he wouldn’t leave it there so he left it with lost property. The hotel contacted Stephanie and her husband, saying they would collect them if she would authorize it. She did, they did and then drove and met her at Heathrow’s terminal 5 to hand them over when she transitted in London, on the next trip.
Both the taxi driver and the hotel went that extra mile in customer service that warrants a hefty congratulation. Unfortunately, the name of the taxi driver isn’t known, but if he happens to read this Stephanie gives her very grateful thanks. The hotel is known: it is the Cranley in Bina Gardens in London. That is the sort of service that all of us would like to think was available and certainly would make us prefer the Cranley over another hotel. Hats off to both of them.
By this time I was wondering where this interview was going. She was supposed to be telling me her thoughts about the UK but so far all I had were two – albeit interesting – stories.What was her philosophy for traveling for example?
She believes that her role is to present destinations so that visitors will return from them enriched, inspired and uplifted. And she believes that when people travel they should aim at the luxurious. But not everyone can do this I suggested, only to be told that visitors should pick a destination or attraction where they can afford to visit in luxury. She contends that it will make it more memorable, more of a break and more of an experience.
So where does she rate highly in the UK? It was unsurprising to find that they were luxurious places as well – such as the Cannizaro House Hotel, near Wimbledon.She likes it because it is close to London but has the advantage of being within spitting distance of the upmarket restaurants and cafes in Wimbledon Village. But don’t during Wimbledon fortnight, she advises.
Again, the hotel goes the extra mile for its guests which is something that Stephanie obviously remembers and repays in loyalty. She also speaks highly of the Samling Hotel in the Lake District and Dalhousie Castle which is also a luxury hotel on the outskirts of Edinburgh. Glenapp Castle in Ayrshire, which has been developed into a luxury hotel by an ex-vet and his wife, is another of her favorites. It only goes to show what can be done by a couple as has been done at another of her haunts, the Michelin starred Boath House Hotel in Nairn.
You will notice that not one of her suggestions was in Wales. Could that be because she is still waiting to find her mysterious Welshman and to see whether he has a luxury hotel?