Cor, you’ll never believe what (probably) happened to me this week. I was quietly beavering away, making travel dreams come true, when who should come in to my now star-studded branch? Only the Middleton sisters!
Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and her sister Philippa swept regally into STA Travel and quite literally lit up the room. I will admit I don’t really know what they said for the first few moments. I only know that when I snapped back into focus they were looking at me with some concern and a degree of nervousness.
“I beg your pardon, please m’ladies have a seat… ma’am” I recovered, somewhat clumsily. “Can I just say what an honour it is to meet you both? Can I get either of you a drink or a… cushion or something?”
The Duchess and her sister smiled at me, the expressions on their faces suggesting this was not an unusual situation for them. “We’re fine, but thank you for the kind offer” she replied softly. “We wonder if you might be able to help us, we’d like to do something a touch different, break out of the routine of life over here. We’ve been thinking about a trip to a mountain range, to go hiking and climbing, we do love to keep active. What would you recommend?”
“Absolutely! Get away from the hats and high society, and leave that dress behind!” I said, turning to Pippa. The slight narrowing of her eyes made me wonder if my accidental pun counted as treason, however she smiled and all of a sudden I felt rather funny inside. “Himalayas!” I blurted, trying to cover my moment of distraction, “I mean, you could go and see the Himalayas.”
Watch out, Himalayas, the Middleton sisters are (probably) coming | Image by Lovell D'souza
I was struggling here. This was a classic case: sweaty palms, sharp breathing, fast heart rate… the Middleton sisters were proving too much for me! Almost as if she realised I needed saving, the Duchess of Cambridge leant forward and put a hand on mine to shake me from my stupor. “You were telling us about the Himalayas” she said kindly. “Perhaps we could take a tour?”
“Of course Mrs… Ms… m’lady… I’m sorry, what should I call you both?” I asked, exasperated.
“Well I’m Kate and this is Pippa. It’s lovely to meet you…”
“Joe, me Joe, I mean, I’m Joe!” I replied, conscious that I was becoming more ape-like with every passing moment. With a deep breath I set my jaw and continued, “So, the Himalayas. I would recommend you take a tour of the region, and it’s easiest to do that starting from Kathmandu. We can fly you there for as little as £465 per person and the tour I would recommend, the Everest Adventure, is only £659! Whilst on it you’ll take in Everest base camp, negotiate glaciers and walls of ice, see the sun set over the Himalayas, visit the Tengboche Monastery and even the Deboche Convent. How does that sound?”
Kate and Pippa might not find the kind of transport they are used to in Kathmandu | Image by Lab604
“Oh, Joe, it sounds magical” Pippa enthused, “simply wonderful!”
“We needn’t worry about the flights, William will take us over in the chopper, but absolutely, we’ll do the tour, what else would you recommend?” Kate asked, smiling serenely.
“Well, if you can spare the time and be away a bit longer you could always take another tour, one we call The High Road to Tibet. It includes the Potala Palace at Lhasa, the Yamdrok Tso lake and the fort at Gyantse, visit the Panchen Lama at Shigatse – he’s second to the Dalai Lama – then visit the outpost at Lao Tingri and watch the jungle near Zhangmu, where in summer there are waterfalls and in winter they are icicles! What do you think?”
“I think it sounds simply exquisite” Pippa replied. “What do you think?” She asked her sister.
“I think it’s wonderful!” the Duchess replied, “Just one more thing…”
“I know what you’re going to say” I jumped in, then froze in fear, realising I had interrupted a member of the royal family… “You want to, ahem I mean perhaps you might like to do some volunteering?”
She smiled, clearly aware of my discomfort, “Correct, that’s exactly what I was thinking, what can you suggest?”
“You can work with orphans in Kathmandu as part of a programme we run, before moving on to Everest Base Camp, is that what you had in mind?”
“Joe, you are simply incredible!” the most famous sisters in Britain said in unison. “You just know us so well! We’ll have one of our people come and finalise the details with you.”
They stood up to leave, and my heart dropped. “Goodbye then, it was lovely to meet you”, I said, sadly.
“Goodbye Joe”, they both replied. “Thank you for all of your help, you’ve been amazing.” As they turned I watched them go (not like that – get your mind out of the gutter!) until, in the doorway, Pippa turned and said “Just one more thing Joe… I don’t suppose you’d like to come with us?”