Friday, April 11, 2008

Welcoming the jetlagged traveler to your home

My friend Sally Bradshaw is a British lyric soprano with a celestial voice. She lives in a charming maisonette in Highbury Park, London and has a medieval country home in Najacs, France. Sally travels the world, singing in festivals, directing operas, teaching singing, recording everything from Handel to Pet Shop Boys.

On my last trip to London, I arrived at Gatwick at 6 a.m. I stood on the immigration/passport control line, waited for my luggage, changed dollars into pounds, bought a train ticket and an Oyster card, rode the train into Victoria Station, got onto the Victoria Line to Sally's tube stop, Highbury Islington, walked through Highbury Fields and finally, rang Sally's bell at 8 a.m.

Sally answered the door in her lovely white flowing nightgown and robe and took me in. Her table was set with a hot, brewing pot of PG Tips and an English breakfast of soft boiled eggs, wholegrain toast, her homemade marmelade and French country butter. It was a balm to my frayed traveler's soul.

So here are some thoughts on how to welcome the jetlagged traveler to your home.

Have the bed already made up for your traveler. Just the sight of it will welcome and soothe. It is unnerving to see your flustered host running around snapping open sheets and hurriedly making a bed. I already feel I've been too much trouble.

Don’t forget to put a folded bath towel and washcloth at the foot of the bed.

By the bed: A set of house keys. A covered pitcher of water and a glass. A local guidebook. A bud vase. A chocolate.

A pot of hot tea waiting when they walk in. Don’t ask, “Would you like a cup of tea?” They’ll invariably say no. Jetlagged travelers are in no position to make any decisions.

Ready options for a warm, light meal. Travelers need comforting after all the nerve jangling. Soup (preferably homemade) is always great to have simmering on the stove. It never overcooks and is always ready. Bread, cheese and fruit to accompany. Or, if they arrive in the morning, a light, fresh breakfast.

After you’ve fed them, invite them to take a nap. They might say no, but they will lie down and fall asleep anyway.

P.S. I told Sally not to get me at the airport because my flight arrived at 5:55 a.m. But, whenever possible, meet your guest at the airport. This is a welcoming gesture that is a huge comfort. And it will be extended to you when you need it most.

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