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Thursday, 21 December 2006

Europe By Chance: Crossing the continent despite myself - Page 3

Written by Gary Boas
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I have a fairly haphazard approach to traveling: I like to drop myself in the middle of some locale with no plan as to what I'm going to do – and occasionally no viable way of getting out – just to see what happens. I tell myself that this is a good way to test my mettle. If I can make it out of some of these scrapes alive, the argument goes, then I must be a tough one indeed. The truth is, I’m probably just a bit lazy and can’t be bothered with stuff like arranging accommodations before I arrive in a place, or finding transport more than a day or two in advance.

I found my way to the forward lounge in the ferry and pulled up a chair by the front window overlooking the bow. Looking out into the void I saw only a few faint lights. I watched these for some time. I didn't know what or where the lights were, or even if we were headed toward them. I sort of hoped we were.

Eventually, exhaustion overtook me. I took off my sweatshirt, rolled it up to use as a pillow and lay down on a bench.

Back on the bus, at about 4:30am local time, I drifted off to sleep again. The last thing I remember hearing was the gentleman across the aisle saying, in a wonderful Caribbean lilt:

“It isn't a dream. It isn't even a fantasy.”

“I think it's madness.”

Paris, it turns out, is a beautiful city. I didn't stray too far off the beaten path as I had only 12 hours there and was dog-tired from the previous two nights. I did however spend a very pleasant afternoon in the area of the Chatelet metro stop and Notre Dame Cathedral, mostly reading and trying not to fall over from exhaustion.


Notre Dame Cathedral rises above apartments overlooking the Seine on a beautiful day in Paris. Walkways lining the river provide for relaxing, scenic Sunday afternoon strolls.


Later, I boarded the overnight train to Milan. I was assigned a bunk in a couchette, which was great fun – watching the French countryside zip by as I lay in the bunk that night was absolutely mesmerizing. Then, two of my cabin-mates were college-age American women who had apparently attracted the attention of two college-age guys in the next car (also Americans). We had barely begun to settle into the cabin when one of the guys came by and invited the women to join them in the bar car. I wandered over there later and, as I chatted with an Australian archaeologist, watched the four of them performing their little mating dances. It was all very flirty, very inane.

I went to bed relatively early, but was still reading when one of the women returned to the cabin. Not long after, one of the guys came by, knocked on the window and made a series of hand motions that translated roughly as: “I'm desperate for some sort of story to tell the guys back home. Will you please just come out here and...I dunno, touch me in some way? I can work with that.” She made a face at me and stepped out into the hallway.

(Page 3 of 4)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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