Written on the East Coast Line
King’s Cross, London, England to Waverley Station, Edinburgh, Scotland
Monday, July 14, 13h40
Two days ago in Paris, Steve and I embarked on the last leg of our trip, little knowing that it was going to take a good 36 hours longer than we had bargained for… since we’ve been traveling for about 10 months now, I had thought we were justified in giving ourselves a few pats on the back, being old hands at this travel gig, and getting ourselves from one place to another with a minimum of fuss. Well, hubris never pays. Travel mistakes this half of the world are more expensive to boot!
Our plan was to take a carsharing trip from Paris to London (Eurostar trains making the same trip costing well over 250 euro for the same privilege), and then catch a train in the evening heading up to Edinburgh, which would take us about 5 hours. This covoiturage (or BlaBlaCar as it’s called in other countries) deal is usually pretty good. You pay a pittance to travel in a carpool with other people, and go distances that would usually cost hundreds of euro on a train for less than 50. Our covoiturage trip was amusing enough, as we packed in 7 people in one minivan, and received strange glances from both the French and English authorities, but man if it wasn’t a circus show when we tried to make the Channel crossing. Continue reading Planes, trains, and automobiles.
I’m writing a very quick post from the magical land of Paris before I blast off for one more day here. Why is it magical? It must be because there is a roosting pigeon not one meter away from me. Outside the tiny balcony of my friend Dan’s apartment in the north of Paris, in the small sheltered space formed by the corner of the wall and the opened shutters of the balcony doors, a pigeon whom Dan has nicknamed Madame Verdurin is currently roosting with her two (or more) white eggs. Madame Verdurin herself is a character from Proust’s A La Recherche du Temps Perdu, a doorstopper of a novel which I’ve not had the honor to read yet, and this avian namesake of hers is one of the small things about Paris that is charming.
Magical it is in other realms as well — I have liked this city much better than I thought I was going to. Many nations’ capitals are busy, dirty, frustrating, expensive, and too big for comfort. Paris is quite a few of those things, and most definitely expensive, but at the same time, it is really quite beautiful too. We have been roaming, walking, eating, and seeing things non-stop. Steve and I are practically asleep on our poor feet these days, and fatigue sets in so easily. If I lived in a novel of the late 1800s, my acquaintances would say that I had a run-down constitution and needed to go out to the countryside for a few weeks’ rest and recuperation. Luckily, neither of us have gotten sick, but we are certainly heading back to Lyon tomorrow with a sense of relief. Continue reading A roosting pigeon.
Yesterday, we made an absurd five-hour journey, a calculated retreat from the mass of humanity that was Delhi, in hopes of finding a slightly better environment. What we found rather was India’s penchant for bureaucracy, lies, and general inefficiency. I want to write about it because I feel like it was so typically India, but it must be noted that nothing catastrophic happened: we didn’t lose our luggage or passports, get ripped off for a large amount of money, or cry and curse at the officials. It was simply just travel in India: death by a thousand micro-aggressions.
After checking out of our hostel, we walked through the dusty halls and elevated walkways of the New Delhi Railway Station, and upon arriving at the Airport Express Link, requested two tokens for the airport. The man behind the counter asked us where we were going (Amritsar) and the name of our airline (SpiceJet, a low-budget domestic airline), and directed us to get off a stop earlier, at Delhi Aerocity, instead of the Airport station for our domestic flight. The international terminal we arrived in initially led directly into the Airport station, so when we emerged from the Delhi Aerocity stop, we were dismayed to find ourselves in the middle of nowhere, bound by empty stretches of roads on each side. Most passengers from our ride were getting on a shuttle bus for 30 rupees each ($0.50 USD), and it seemed like our only option, but we were reluctant. In India, you’re never sure if you’re being led in the correct (and cheap or free) direction or if you’re being taken for a ride. However, there were positive signs, since the cost was relatively low and other Indians were on board, so we gave in, half-expecting that we might be taken to the wrong terminal and have to get on another shuttle. Here, nothing’s simple.
Continue reading It’s the journey, not the destination.