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Around the World in 80 Days

Day 1: 25 September

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 Days'It's that Monty Python bloke!' shouts one of the crew as I mount the first of many gangplanks of the world. He turns confidingly to me: 'If you want a farce, you've got one here.' The passageways of the Horsa smell of day-old school food, but we Oriental Expressers are ushered to our own private lounge.

It's a dispiriting place, decorated in International Cowboy Saloon Style. The walls are ringed with reverentially lit alcoves which look as if they might contain international art treasures or religious icons, but which, on closer inspection, are found to be full of duty-free goods.

Seeking refuge from the world of 'Antaeus, Pour Homme' and 'Superkings', I walk out on deck. It's mid-afternoon and the white cliffs of home are now little more than a blur. A huge black cloud seems to be sealing England off behind us. A sharp, squally wind that would test the stoutest toupee rips across from the West. With friends and familiar surroundings disappearing over the horizon, I catch my breath for a moment at the scale of what is just beginning.

The Channel crossing is bumpy, but to the director's chagrin nothing more. A Force 5. 'I've had her out in a Force 12,' says the captain, eyes skinned for stray fishing boats, tankers, ferries, yachts, channel-swimmer's support vessels and every floating thing that makes this one of the busiest waterways in the world.

4.30. On the bridge. From a mile out at sea Boulogne, France, looks to consist of one huge steelworks, but as we get nearer a hard skyline of soot-flecked concrete apartment blocks looms.
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  • Series: Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day: 1
  • Date: 25 September
  • Country/sea: France
  • Place: Boulogne
  • Book page no: 17

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