Posted by: Brad Nixon | January 20, 2017

Lucky Travel Moments: The Kindness of Strangers

Recently — in this post — I wrote about some serendipitous, lucky moments I’ve had during several decades of travel.

Sometimes, lucky travel moments are due to the kindness or consideration of those one meets. I’ve been the beneficiary of more than my share of help from strangers.

Dad and I were in Colorado several years ago, visiting the restored mining town of Cripple Creek, which, although picturesque, seemed manufactured: tricked-out to appeal to tourists.

Cripple Creek CO Brad Nixon 9976 (640x480)

As I’ve seen him do countless times throughout my life, Dad struck up a conversation with a man he met. That gentleman suggested that if we were interested in old mining towns, we should drive a few miles farther into the mountains to see the unrestored little town of Victor. That was a great piece of advice. Victor was a memorable place.

Victor CO Brad Nixon 0054 (640x471)

Hitchiking, I’ve been given long rides by friendly people. Once, on my way to Wales, a young couple on their way to Sunday tea picked me up and took me along with them to their family’s house and gave me the best meal I’d had in days.

Brad Nixon 5638 (640x424)

Don’t they look wonderful?

Later on that same trip, bicycling through the rainy Cotswolds, soaked to the skin, I encountered some people about my age (I was in my 20s) who offered to let me stay in their thatched cottage — called Alms Cottage — as long as I wished.

Wroxton UK Brad Nixon 5645 (640x458)

I stayed in the tiny, picture-perfect village for two days while the rain lasted.

And once, 45 years ago, I came to England by ferry, landing on a Sunday with money in my pocket, but only German marks. ATMs didn’t exist. Banks were closed. I hitched from Dover to London, then asked a man on Waterloo Bridge if he could give me directions to start walking toward Hampstead, where I’d be staying. He, of course, gave me directions to the Waterloo tube station, but I explained that I had no British money for the fare, and had to walk. He gave me money for the fare, insisting I take it.

At the end of that earlier post I asked readers for their tales of travel serendipity.

I received a long reply from regular reader, La Boheme. Here’s his recollection.

****

It is a commonly held belief here that the French are rude and deliberately unhelpful to American travelers in France. I must be the luckiest traveler in the world because, in my many travels to France, I have never encountered such behavior. (I have seen many rude and obnoxious American travelers in France. Perhaps, you reap what you sow.)

My wife and I met Claude at 35,000 feet. We were flying from L.A. to Paris in 1992. Claude was sitting behind us, and he started a conversation, in English. We told him that this was our first trip to Paris, and he asked how we planned to get from Charles de Gaulle airport (CDG) into the city and our hotel. I told him the route that my guidebook recommended. He thought that route might be too difficult for first-time visitors, and suggested another way, a much easier way that I’ve followed on all my trips to Paris ever since.

When we landed at CDG, that might have been the end of our pleasant but brief encounter, and we might have gone our separate ways. But no. Claude quickly and efficiently guided us through the CDG maze of corridors, through the correct immigration and passport office checks, and to the luggage carousels, saving us a lot of time and headaches. He then stood by and waited for us to retrieve our luggage. After we got our bags, Claude took us to the Air France bus station outside the terminal and told us which stop to get off at once our bus entered Paris.

Before we boarded the bus, Claude asked if he might call our hotel in a couple of days to get together again. There was a concert in the little village of Auvers- sur-Oise, just north of Paris. Would we like to go with him and his girlfriend?  What would you do?  Of course, we gratefully accepted.

A couple of days later, Claude called us about the concert, and that evening picked us up at our hotel and drove us to Auvers, where Vincent Van Gogh stayed in 1890 during the last three months of his life.  At Auvers, we saw the church immortalized by Van Gogh’s L’eglise d’Auvers-sur-Oise.

Related image

We walked the wheat fields (but saw no crows) and visited the final resting place of Vincent and his brother Theo.

The four of us dined at a small café, and then enjoyed the concert.

Later that evening, while walking around the village before we left, my wife saw a watercolor painting of the church by a local artist. It looks nothing like the iconic L’eglise d’Auvers-sur-Oise. Rather, the watercolor shows the church from a distance, atop a hill, with the Oise river and riverbanks in the foreground. My wife bought it. That, as it turns out, was a very prescient purchase. When we returned home after our two week trip to Paris, we had the painting framed and hung in my wife’s home office. It’s been there for 24 years.

Over the years, we always kept in touch with Claude, and when we were in Paris, Claude would take us to neighborhood restaurants and local concert venues. Don’t look for these places in your guidebooks. You won’t find them mentioned there.

Tragically, Claude passed away in 2001, far too soon, a victim of cancer. Whenever I pass by our watercolor painting of Auvers, which is nearly every day, I think of Claude.

***

All one can do is to pay those kindnesses forward to other travelers, in hope that we form a circle of human kindness that will enclose us all. We’re all travelers. Some of Claude’s own kindness came to the Counselor and me years later, when we traveled to Paris with La Boheme and his wife, who I’ll refer to as Teacher of the Year, because she is.

For more description and photos of Cripple Creek and Victor, CLICK HERE. There’s more about that Cotswold village (as well as unforgettable Sheepy Parva and Sheepy Magna) HERE.

Do you have a “kindness of strangers” story? Please leave a comment.

© Brad Nixon and Bill Pergande 2017

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Responses

  1. Fabulous story. Indeed we reap what we sow – for kindness will be repaid in kind! We truly believe in it.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Very interesting stories! I also agree that yes, we do reap what we sow!

    Like

  3. I’ve never had much of an opportunity to travel, but I’ve definitely had unexpected kindness shown to me by strangers just travelling around in my home country. I’ve had complete strangers offer me food on many an occassion, and a gentleman who even gave me a walking tour of several streets I happened to be exploring at the time. Now I try to offer some unexpected kindness of my own to the people I encounter: you never know, you might just make someone’s day 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Those were wonderful stories! It makes me want to be even more kinder than necessary. You never know–we may be entertaining angels! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Like

  5. Such a nice tribute, thank you for reminding us of the positive energy that is still out there. I’ve always thought that the best souviners from travel are the people you meet along the way.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. A cheering post and comments. Here’s to travel and to extending mutual kindness and courtesy as we go.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. As Glen Campbell sang, “Try a little kindness and you’ll overcome the blindness of the narrow minded people in their narrow minded streets.” We can use that now more than ever.

    Like


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