Losing one's passport, credit cards and cash is one of the great fears of travelers. The Dale Thompsons of Burbank describe their experience and offer some words of advice on how to cope with the problem:
"Since the summer travel season is nearing and many people will be going to Europe, perhaps for the first time, we would like to share our misfortune in the hope that it will help someone else to avoid such an episode.
"It was a warm, May afternoon along Las Ramblas, the charming walking street in Barcelona, Spain. Hundreds of tourists and Spaniards alike were strolling, browsing in the book stalls, admiring flower stands. Suddenly a rude jostle by one person and the skilled fingers of another and my wallet had been taken from my front trousers pocket by professional pickpockets. I grabbed for the man, yelled at the top of my voice and took out after him. Two policemen jumped into the chase, but the narrow, twisting streets of Barcelona's Gothic quarter quickly swallowed up the thief.
"Then ensued a nightmare, which in some respects still continues. My passport, traveler's checks, credit cards and cash were all in the wallet. Of course, without a passport in a foreign country, one is almost a non-person. My wife and I went immediately to the nearby police station to make out the theft report. The next stop was the American Consulate to apply for a new passport.
"We were grateful that we were not physically harmed. The passport was replaced quickly, the traveler's checks have been refunded, and the credit cards canceled so that our only real loss was the cash I was carrying. However, the experience has changed our feelings about Europe, and Spain in particular, although we are neither inexperienced nor careless European travelers. Americans seem to be targets for pickpockets since they usually carry cash and many of the thieves of Barcelona are drug addicts in a port where drugs are plentiful. Based on some careful thought, we would like to share some advice with prospective travelers:
--Be sure to keep a list of the numbers of your traveler's checks in a safe place. These are immediately refundable with the numbers.
--If your credit cards are stolen, get on the phone immediately to American Express, Visa, MasterCard, etc., to cancel the card. (Our thief is still using the canceled card to charge large purchases in Barcelona.)
--Keep your passport in your hotel safe unless you are cashing traveler's checks. Then return it.
--Carry very little cash. Credit cards are usable anywhere, but keep them in an inside pocket, not in a wallet or purse.
--Women, don't carry a purse. Purses are more frequently stolen than wallets. Thieves slash shoulder straps in order to steal.
"We don't say not to travel, just to be careful. We've always loved Europe before and perhaps we will again, but the black day on Las Ramblas has left quite a scar. Barcelona is a beautiful city, but judging from the numbers of other Americans in our predicament at the consulate and police station, its bad reputation is well-deserved."
Michael Ovenell and Douglas M. DeClercq feature a number of unusual accommodations on their package tours of British Columbia's Vancouver Island. In the Cowichan Valley there's a Victorian farm home that provides eye-popping scenery along with home-cooked meals prepared from meats, poultry and vegetables grown on the farm (the only working farm on Vancouver Island that welcomes overnight guests). Ovenell and DeCler have lined up a number of extraordinary B&Bs, including an elegant turn-of-the-century home near Buchart Gardens in Victoria. And there's the residence of a retired sea captain that's furnished with treasures from his travels.
Ovenell and DeCler offer trips by ferry to the remote village of Bamfield on the Pacific, plus tours of the Gulf Islands and the Cowichan Valley. For $489 they've put together a three-day salmon fishing package with hotels, meals, boats, guides. Write to Ovenell and DeCler c/o Whittome Travel Services, 58 Station St., Duncan, B.C. V9L-1M5, Canada.
France's Loire Valley
If you want to avoid the hassle of touring the Loire Valley on your own hook, check in with Philippe Jauneaud, who does trips for the well-heeled traveler. You're met at your hotel in Paris. These are customized tours. Private visits to chateaux, lunch with the owners. Visits to remote villages, picnics on farms or along rivers. Private wine tastings arranged in a number of cellars. On one tour you're put up at Chateau d'Artigny. I spent a night there several years ago. Service, accommodations, meals were superb. Other tours feature sound and light shows, medieval villages, artist studios, carriage rides, boat trips along the Loire, Cher or Vienne rivers. Contact Philippe Jauneaud c/o Privileges de France, 37390 Mettray, France.