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Looking for Lourdes: British ambassador reaches out to long-lost friend

In the hope he might locate her, Hugh Elliott has shared on Twitter the story of how, 35 years ago, a local woman from Burgos gave him food and accommodation

British ambassador to Spain, Hugh Elliott.
British ambassador to Spain, Hugh Elliott.Twitter

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Hugh Elliott, the British ambassador to Spain, has kicked off a series of official visits around the country with a trip to Burgos in northern Spain. During the visit, Elliott shared on Twitter how he had spent time in the city as a young man.

The year was 1984, and Burgos was the first Spanish city Elliot had ever visited. He arrived by train from Carcassone in France, and was planning to ride his bicycle to Santiago de Compostela to complete the Way of Saint James pilgrimage route. But his bicycle did not arrive in the same train as him. It was lost, and would not arrive until the following day.

“On an official visit to the north of Spain, I begin in Burgos and I want to share a story that happened to me during my first trip by bike to the city.”

With little money and kilometers away from the campsite where he was planning on staying, Elliott “went to a bar to reflect,” according to the video he shared on Twitter. Inside the bar, he started talking to a Canadian man who had come to Burgos to see his girlfriend, a woman – if the ambassador remembers correctly – called Lourdes Arnáiz. When she arrived to pick up her boyfriend, she invited Elliott to stay with her and her brother until his bicycle arrived.

It took five days for the bicycle to reach Burgos. Elliott spent that time with his hosts, “eating with the family, without them letting me pay for anything. How many countries would have welcomed a stranger like that?” he asks in his Twitter video. “My fondness for the country and the Spanish people began here, in Burgos, 35 years ago, and if you are still here, Lourdes, I thank you again, and would love to thank you in person.”

On his official trip to Burgos, 35 years later, Elliott met with the mayor of the city, Daniel de la Rosa. “A lovely visit from Hugh Elliott, British ambassador to Spain, who has shown a special affection for our city,” De la Rosa said in a message on Twitter, after meeting the ambassador on December 3.

Hugh Elliott has been Britain’s ambassador to Spain and Andorra since August, when he replaced outgoing diplomat Simon Manley, who had been in the role for six years. Before being appointed to the position, Elliott was working as the head of communications at the Brexit Ministry. He was a language professor in Salamanca, where he met his wife María Antonia Martín de Elliott, and his diplomatic career began in Spain in the 1990s. Elliott has two children, who were born in Madrid. He has also worked in Buenos Aires and in Paris.

His message on Twitter sparked numerous responses, many of which tried to locate Lourdes Arnáiz online, based on her age.

‘A typical Spanish expression: “People raised well are grateful.” Well done Mr Ambassador.’

– You went to the bar to reflect

– Where else?

“Come out Lourdes please! For the good of Burgos.”

“Make yourself known Lourdes!”

Other shared similar stories.

“These things are not forgotten. Twenty-five years ago, in León, I saw that I had one euro in my pocket. I imagine I lost the rest. Friends from the Way of St. James shared what they had and we arrived in Santiago de Compostela. Here they paid for my return ticket to Seville. They never let me pay them back.”

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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