Monday, January 19, 2015

A Wonderful Reunion

Today we fly home from Washington State after an eleven-day trip to attend the 2014 Rick Steves’ Tour Reunion. This event is held every January so those who shared a tour during the previous year can meet again in Edmonds. Many of the tour guides from Europe attend as well. This year, the little town of Edmonds hosted over 3000 people for this event!
Before the reunion last weekend, however, we visited with several of our friends who live in the area.

We started our visit with our dear friend Rev. Serena Sullivan in Tacoma. She had stayed with us in Dana Point for a few days last year, so we loved seeing her once again. We’d never been to this lovely city before, so we enjoyed exploring, and she was a great guide. Our friend is now retired, so she had discretionary time to spend with us.

We enjoyed the Glass Museum as well as the Natural History Museum. She drove us on a scenic tour of the area, and we wandered through the cute little shops in some of the charming areas of town. We even went to the show one evening to see “Into the Woods” in a charming old theater. Oh, and we ate in several wonderful restaurants.

While based in Tacoma, we drove to Woodinville o spend a day with our friends, the Newtons. We hadn’t seen them since about 1991, and really enjoyed catching up. We talked all day and still had lots and lots to share.

After several days in Tacoma, we checked into our hotel in Edmonds. While there, we went to Mukilteo to meet another friend from Whidbey Island for lunch. We hadn’t seen her in years, either. The Newtons surprised her by joining us. We all attended the same church many years ago, so once again, we had lots to catch up on. Fortunately, the restaurant wasn’t too busy because we occupied a large booth for well over three hours, and they allowed us to stay!

A couple of days later, we drove to Bellevue to spend the day with our friends, the Donovans. They are more former members of the same church family. They moved to Washington in the 1980s, and we have stayed in touch through the years. We visited them when we were in WA in 1991, but we haven’t been together since.

We were invited for lunch, but when asked to stay for dinner, too, we happily agreed. Another seven hours with still more conversation left for the future!

On Saturday morning, the day of the reunion, another tour member from our group, Mas, met us at the hotel, and we all drove together to the Edmonds Conference Center for the formal event.
What a great time! Nine of us (nearly half of our 21 tour members) showed up. One couple came all the way from Ohio! We laughed and talked and shared memories and caught up. Our guide, Virginie, had come from France, and we enjoyed seeing her again.

We were the group which had the most members present, and we won the prize—Gummy Bears!
We also had our photo taken with Rick, Unfortunately, Larry had run back to the car, and Dick took the photo, so both of them were missing. (We don’t have the copy of the photo yet.)

One Rick Steves’ tour requirement is for each person in the group to select a stranger to be their ‘buddy’ throughout the trip. When the group reunited at the bus or to start a new adventure, we did a ‘buddy check’ to make sure everyone was present. Mas was my buddy. Larry’s buddy, Dick, also attended. The relationships we had formed over the two weeks of our trip remained strong.

On Sunday, the company presented events for anyone interested in a future trip to ‘test drive a tour guide.’ Throughout the day, in three different locations, tour guides showed slides and described their tours. Then, if anyone was interested, the guides made themselves available for questions at the Conference Center.

We’d talked about going to Spain, so we attended the early presentation on the basic tour of Spain’s major cities. Since another presentation about a different tour of Spain was scheduled after one on Italy, we decided to sit in on that one as well. Rick himself provided the narration. We really enjoyed being reminded of all the great memories of our own Italian trip.

After the second Spain presentation, we decided to go to lunch, and who did we run into? Our friend Mas! We all ate lunch together, enjoying one last chance to connect.

After lunch, our tour guide, Virginie, took part in the presentation on the trip we had enjoyed. So we attended that one to give her support. She did a wonderful job! If we hadn’t done it already last year, we’d have been ready to sign up.

We took the opportunity to say goodbye to her once more before returning to the hotel late in the afternoon.

During the night, we had a six-hour power outage. When we woke in the morning, the power was back on, but some parts of the area were still in the dark. The wind and hard rain the night before had caused several severe outages.

After breakfast, we packed and drove to the hotel near the airport for our last night in Seattle—careful to avoid the traffic for the football game! (Seattle won, and the city went crazy!)
We checked in and then returned the rental car.

So today,we’re headed home, ready to get back after a terrific trip filled with visits with old friends and new ones, including those with whom we experienced the glory of France.

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