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Around the World in 80 Days

Day 1: 25 September

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 DaysI dine next to a couple from Southend who are celebrating their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary with an Orient Express trip to Paris. Nice people but, looking round, I'm rather disappointed at the lack of princesses, murderers and deposed heads of Europe. Most of the 188 passengers are either going to a pipeline conference in Venice or are Mid-Westerners on a tour. Instead of falling into risque conversation with a Mata Hari of the 1980s, I end up in the piano bar with the Pipeliners. They seem very interested to hear that, in seventy days from now, I hope to cross the Atlantic from Halifax, Nova Scotia. 'We've got a big pipe there, we could flush you through.'

My cabin has been prepared for the night by Jeff, a down-to-earth, well-informed Englishman who has responsibility for Coach 3544. The bed is soft but short. 'Yes, we do have a bit of trouble with our Americans,' he concedes. 'There's one tonight who's 6 foot 8.' He looks apprehensively down the corridor, listening no doubt for the giant's tread. Feeling for the first time in my life rather smug about being 5 foot 10 and a half, I turn in. The train is heading for the Belfort Gap, my head is buzzing with an evening's champagne, and so far circumnavigation is a doddle.
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  • Series: Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day: 1
  • Date: 25 September
  • Country/sea: France
  • Place: Boulogne
  • Book page no: 18

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