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The patron saint of travel coincidence spreads blessings everywhere

In 1971, Sheila Yuter and her late husband, Jerry, were at the Prado in Madrid, where the only English-speaking tour available was of the museum’s tapestry gallery.

“At every display, a woman in the group with a strong Italian accent kept repeating, ‘Incredible, incredible,’” wrote Sheila, of Potomac. “Several years later we were in the Pitti Palace in Florence and just as we walked in, we heard someone coming up the stairs saying, ‘Incredible, incredible.’ Sure enough, it was the same woman!”

We will call that anonymous Italian tourist St. Coincidenta, the patron saint of the vacation coincidence. As we’ve seen in my column all this week, St. Coincidenta spreads her benevolent presence everywhere.

Julie Bohaska was browsing the shops in St. Michaels, Md., when she noticed a woman calling her young son’s name repeatedly.

“He was never far off or out of sight, but still, every few minutes, would come the shouts: ‘Lucas! Lucas! Looooocaas!’” wrote Julie, who lives in Catonsville, Md. “It quickly became most annoying! Everywhere I went, there were she and Lucas, with her loudly calling his name. I thought it odd enough that I told my husband about it when I got home.

“Several days later, I was on the boardwalk in Ocean City, and what do you suppose I heard? Yep! Loooooocaaaaaas!

Years ago, Arlington’s Jennifer Musser was going through Miami’s airport with her brother and talking about how many celebrities used it.

“We looked around and, sure enough, saw Dan Marino and his family at a check-in desk,” Jennifer wrote. “The next week we were traveling back through Miami airport and talking about how we had seen Dan Marino. A couple behind us on the moving sidewalk overheard and thought it was very interesting. I looked across at the opposite moving sidewalk and there was Dan Marino again!”

What would be even better than being able to conjure a Dolphins quarterback at will? Perhaps what Monica Nelson and her sister, Maura, accomplished during their trip to Europe in the late 1970s.

“We hit all the main sites, since it was our first European trip,” wrote Monica, of Fairfax. “We spied [actress] Jean Stapleton in three different cities: Paris, Florence and Rome. Don’t recall if we spotted her at Octoberfest — can’t recall much of that experience!”

When Cathy Henry and her husband, Doug, boarded a flight to St. Louis, they found their seats already occupied.

“When the stewardess checked, the couple sitting there also had boarding passes for those seats — and they were also named Cathy and Doug Henry,” wrote Cathy, of Annandale. “The stewardess determined that the other couple actually had different seats, booked to the plane’s final destination in Denver.”

They thought the confusion was over — until they tried to claim their bag in St. Louis. The final suitcase on the carousel was for the other Cathy Henry.

“We got our bag back from Denver the next day,” wrote our Cathy.

On Mike and Leigh Sneed’s first trip to Ireland in 1999, they stayed at a B&B in a very small village in County Clare called Doolin. “The day we were checking out, I saw a man checking in, and I did a double-take,” wrote Leigh, of Reston. “We had the same Vermont T-shirts on! I still have that shirt.”

In July 2015, Arlington’s Susan Vincent was on a bus to a trailhead in Kleinwalsertal, a beautiful valley in Austria. “On the bus I saw a woman standing in the aisle whose haircut I loved,” she wrote. “I thought my thick, straight hair would look good in the same style.”

Susan was still thinking about the woman’s hair a few days later when she boarded the bus for another hike.

Wrote Susan: “This time she was seated in the row ahead of us! I got my husband to pretend he was taking a selfie of the two of us, but instead he took a photo of the back of her head. I still have the photo and now I have her haircut!”

On a very hot day in 1995, Matt Pettigrew and his sister, Ann, were birding along a desolate dirt road in southeastern Arizona’s Huachuca Mountains when their rental car got a flat tire. With no spare in the trunk, Matt started walking to a village they had passed a couple of miles earlier.

Matt was halfway down the mountain when a driver stopped. “He gave me a ride down to the village, where I found a phone and called for help,” wrote Matt, of Merchantville, N.J. “He then drove back up to make sure my sister was okay.”

Four years later, Matt was birding alone on an isolated trail in the Adirondacks when he stopped to chat with another birder. Wrote Matt: “It took only a couple of minutes for us to realize that we had briefly met before on a mountain road in Arizona.”

Rick Laub, of Okemos, Mich., says similar things have happened to him, including running into a friend of a friend while skiing in Austria. He doesn’t think they’re that surprising.

“It is my small world theory,” wrote Rick. “People from the same socio-economic groups tend to go to the same colleges, visit the same museums, restaurants and cafes. They sit in the same sections of airplanes and trains. It doesn’t matter what city you visit, you will gravitate to those same places and activities.”

Tomorrow: We gravitate to more of the same places.

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