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Thursday, 21 December 2006

Europe By Chance: Crossing the continent despite myself - Page 2

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 encountered another gentleman a little way up the road. Here, a simple ‘hello’ led to a long, abundantly friendly conversation that encompassed everything from the charismatic leadership of John F. Kennedy to the 17th-century satirist Dean Swift's views on the corruptibility of humanity.

Doolin, though more rural than Lisdoonvarna, is touted as the live music capital of Western Ireland. Indeed it lives up to the name. Eric and I saw lively performances in O’Connor’s and McGann’s pubs, both of which had been written up in Eric’s guidebook. In the end, though, the best performances, and the most fun, were to be found in McDermott’s, a stone's throw from our B&B. There, we also bumped into the two older guys who had mooned the camera in Lisdoonvarna the night before. One of them offered to fight Eric for his seat at the bar.

Monday, June 12, 8:35am
On a train somewhere between Milan and Spezio, Italy

We’ve reached that point in the trip where my mental well-being might be called into question. I'm feeling better now – I’m more rested than I have been and I'm speeding toward the Italian Riviera, so how bad can things be? Still, it was touch and go for a few days.

I've planned all along to move on to Florence, where I’ll meet my brother David and his family. Of course, what I never really concerned myself with is: How? I finally sat down to research my options before we left Cork on Thursday afternoon, but as I was deliberating the prices of flights to Italy jumped considerably. So without much thought I booked a flight to London for only 15 Euro.

Things began to unravel in the British capital. It started with a crowded, hot, noisy hostel near King’s Cross Station. I left there on Saturday morning feeling tired and cranky, and I'm sorry to say my mood was made only worse by spending a day and a half alone in London, a city I still don't really like. Add to this my questionable decision to take an overnight bus to Paris on Saturday and...well, you get the picture.

Actually, I had some fun in London. I spent a quiet afternoon reading in Hyde Park. I came up with a new hobby: Taking pictures of the sites was beginning to bore me so I started taking pictures of people taking pictures of the sites.

The overnight bus, while disastrous from the trying-to-get-some-rest perspective, at least provided some peyote-crunching, Homer-in-the-desert moments of delirium. Given an 11pm departure time and a 7:30am arrival time, I had thought I would have an uninterrupted eight and a half hours in which to sleep. This of course was a tremendously naive assumption. I realized my mistake at 1am when the French police boarded the bus to collect our passports, and then again at 2:30am when we were loaded onto a ferry and told to get off the bus. I knew then that, for a second night in a row, a full night’s sleep was simply not in the cards.

(Page 2 of 4)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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