At last I have time to write the first instalment of my Europe 2011 travelogue. Today’s post is about my journey to Paris, en route to Rosenheim, Bavaria, where I joined Vroni for the second part of her Street Piano Tour of Europe. We shall be visiting various towns in Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Belgium, before returning to Edinburgh.
After an exhausting few weeks in Edinburgh, during which I helped Vroni with preparations (including the making of this video), wrote a book review, applied for a job and partly emptied, cleaned and tidied my flat (it is being painted in my absence) I had a goodbye drink with poets Kevin Cadwallender and Eddie Gibbons in the Café Royal pub and caught the night train to London.
I was lucky to have an isolated seat – no seat next to me and two empty ones in front. However, it wasn’t long before a man who had been booked into another seat had appropriated one of these, and then, when I went to the toilet at 4.30, he spread himself across both, thus preventing me resting my feet on the seat opposite – curses! It wasn’t the most comfortable of journeys, but at least we arrived early at Euston! It was overcast and intermittently drizzling in London, weather that was to accompany me all the way to Bavaria.
I took the underground to Victoria and found the coach station crowded with an assortment of international travellers. I shaved in the lavatory, had a sandwich and coffee and checked in, and then, with plenty of time on
my hands before the 9 a.m. coach to Paris, left the claustrophobic and muggy atmosphere of the coach station to have another coffee on the terrace of Caffé Fratelli – very friendly service!
Clambering onto the coach, I was delighted to get one of the seats right at the front above the driver’s cabin. The view was excellent. I got talking to the young man sitting next to me when, to celebrate emerging from the Chunnel, I
offered him one of the two beers I had brought with me . He turned out to be a well-travelled and intelligent young Israeli called Asaf, on his way to Charles de Gaulle airport from where he would fly to join his family for a holiday in Mauritius. We managed to avoid a political argument (my views on Israel will be familiar to readers of this blog) and had a pleasant enough
chat about his wwoofing, the climate and landscape of Israel and – surprisingly – the Israeli-Palestinian situation. He regretted that he had only been taught a bit of classical Arabic at school, and therefore was unable to communicate properly with Palestinians in their own language. Ultimately we agreed that the best thing any individual Israeli or Palestinian could do was to get to know people on “the other side” – to befriend them. We parted friends ourselves.
Arriving at Gallieni on the outskirts of Paris more than half an hour early, I didn’t have long to wait before my friend Hélène arrived to pick me up, such are the wonders of mobile phones!