As we were packing to leave Bali, my ultimate concierge and I started talking about the most interesting places we have slept on our world travels.
Then, the subject turned to interesting people we have met.
The topic came up because we never imagined ourselves waking up in a charming Shangri-La rice paddy! My husband gave me the idea to write a few short vignettes about places we stayed that were out of the ordinary and people we met whom we never expected to meet.
So let’s travel together to a tree house at Tiger Tops in Nepal, and a suite fit for a Queen in the Damascus, Syria Airport.
Did I ever think I would ride in a golf cart for 18 holes, sitting next to President Gerald Ford and my ultimate concierge? Did I imagine growing up in Kankakee by the Sea that I would one day have dinner next to the King of Malaysia? Or that a day would come that I would chat with President George Bush in the breakfast room at the Claridge’s in London? I did not!
I have been most fortunate to have had these experiences. And, as I always say and always, always mean, I am very grateful.
Image via Tree Tops
A Few Vignettes About My Travels Staring with the Tiger Tops in Nepal
Our tiny plane lifted off the ground from a grassy runway in Nepal.
There was room on the tiny propeller airplane for four people, including the pilot. It was a warm sunny day as we flew through the most gorgeous tiered mountains that looked as though they were created by a painter. To this day, I had never seen a landscape of mountains so beautiful, except when I flew by the Andes mountains.
We landed less than an hour later, again on a grassy airstrip in a tiny airport in Tiger Tops. We were picked up by a driver in a jeep and taken to our room in a tree house.
We had traveled to hunt — not to kill, rather to see — the Bengal tiger. We would be riding atop elephants on this grand adventure. Often the Bengal tiger hides, but this time, while on my elephant with my mahout in control — a mahout is a man who trains and rides elephants — the jungle came alive.
Every elephant on the hunt stopped dead in their tracks. The trees rustled as animals ran to hide and birds came out of the brush flying up into the sky. And then, there he was in all his majesty: the Bengal tiger.
Stunning, huge and eyeing his surroundings, I saw him stalk through the brush. The mahouts were so excited, they shared with us that this rarely happens and that we were lucky.
That night after dinner we climbed up to our tree house, a sparse little house with twin beds. It was freezing. To keep warm, because there was no heat, we were provided with hot water bottles to keep our bodies warm. We slept in one twin bed with two hot water bottles! The experience was a day and a night to remember.
Damascus Airport, Syria
We arrived at Damascus airport. Our flight was to leave at 9 pm. We checked in and we were taken to gate 22 by one of the managers. We waited and waited; other flights were taking off, but our flight was not called. I noticed that after the last plane left no people were arriving for our flight. It was 9:30 pm. We went back to the counter and spoke to the same man. “Oh my God, I forgot to come and get you. They changed the gate and your flight left on time,” he declared.
“When is the next flight?” we asked.
“Tomorrow,” he said.
I said,“ Oh no, we are going to have to sit up all night!”
My ultimate concierge wanted to know how to exchange our tickets for new tickets for the next day’s flight. The manager took us to a little office with a table and two chairs and told us to wait.
Two policemen walked in and accused us of missing our plane and told us we would have to buy new tickets. My ultimate concierge explained what happened. The policemen did not believe us. They wanted to see our passports and started questioning us further.
My husband once again said, “A man escorted us to the gate and told us to sit here. There was no flight information, and the man behind the counter kept telling us the plane was late.” They relented and gave us new tickets.
We left the little room, expecting to sit up for the night. But to our good fortune, the manager found us. He apologized. By now it was after 11 pm.
The manager asked us to follow him. He was a very nice man and told us he would lose his job for this mistake. I felt awful.
As we followed, I told him I was going to write a letter on his behalf. We finally stopped in front of a long wall. He pushed a secret ‘something,’ and a door opened and we were in a hallway. He led us down the hall, opened a door and in front of my eyes, I saw a gorgeous apartment, fit for a Queen!
Smiling, he said, “I want you to sleep the night in comfort. I am so sorry for the inconvenience I caused.”
“Oh, thank you,” I responded.
Of course, being a woman, I was more open with my thoughts and so glad I was going to write the letter on his behalf. I turned the letter into the security office before we left Syria. I have no idea what happened to him. I hope he did not lose his job.
The next morning, after a good night’s sleep, the sun was shining as we walked to the right gate and boarded our flight home.
Image via The Cheat Sheet
President George H. W. Bush
Darlings, believe it or not, President George H. W. Bush was drop dead gorgeous.
Shelly and I were having breakfast at our hotel, Claridge’s in Mayfair, London.
As soon as we were seated, Shelly said. “Look to your right. There are two secret service men at that table. Someone important is having breakfast.”
We were seated near the door to exit the restaurant so whoever was leaving had to pass our table. About 30 minutes later, coming right at me wearing a Burberry trench coat was the President George H. W. Bush, along with his secret service detail. He was in London to be knighted by the Queen. As he approached the door, my ultimate concierge stood up, put out his hand and said, “Good morning Mr. President. My name is Sheldon Good, and I would like you to meet my wife, Susan.”
I was so taken aback with what occurred because Shelly didn’t tell me his intention.
All of a sudden the President put his hand out to me and said, “Good morning, Susan. And, how are you, today?”
“I am just fine, Mr. President and how are you?” I said smiling.
He stayed and chatted with us for another minute and left. Darlings, he was such a big man powerful in his Burberry but with a warm smile.
President Gerald Ford
We attended a charity golf tournament event sponsored by President Gerald Ford. He asked my ultimate concierge if he would be interested in playing with him.
This tournament took place in Palm Springs. Shelly had played in all Gerald Ford’s summer tournaments in Vail for many years, and that is how the relationship blossomed.
I had the privilege to know the President and his wife, Betty.
This particular day I rode in the gold cart between the two men, Shelly and Gerald Ford. The President drove.
Along the route, people were standing beside the fairways asking him to take photos. He would stop his cart and get out to take a picture. He was a kind and warm hearted man. The photos of fans with the President went on all day.
As we were saying our goodbyes, my ultimate concierge turned to me and asked me if I wanted to have my picture taken with the President. “No,” I replied.
“Suzi, how can you say that to the President?” questioned Shelly.
The President turned to me and said, “There’s a lot of people who don’t want to take pictures with me!”
I looked him in the eyes and said, “Oh Mr. President, I would love to have my picture with you and Shelly. I just did not want to impose on you because you have been taking pictures all day!”
Ultimately, we took our picture together.
I am blessed to have had many experiences like the ones above. I hold on to them. They make me smile. I recall the loving and exciting times that my ultimate concierge and I have been blessed to enjoy together.
Memories are recollections to hold on to and pass down. Memories are life lessons to share with our grands. Memories are our life stories. Memories are our life experiences that become the fiber that makes us who we are. Enjoy them and pass them down.
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