A magical sound: the clacking of the departures board as updated times and destinations scroll upward on the list. Sometimes the updates are a single row, sometimes the whole board erupts in fluttering cacophony of times and places and platforms.
For my first blog post of 2012, a return to familiar and loved subjects: train stations, train travel, Paris and, more broadly, Europe. I’ve returned to Paris after a 6 year absence from the city, and although I now have digital photo gear, I’m resisting temptation to reshoot old favourites. Well, mostly resisting.
Things have been, surprisingly, rather free from catastrophe as of late. But there will be much less to say after this email — I’m packing it in and heading home early. Plans for the Czech Republic and Italy have been abandoned and Poland had to be curtailed.
Welcome to Cannes, where the idle rich luxuriate and vaporize large sums of their money, all in shocking disregard for struggling backpackers. While beach chairs and umbrellas rent for €30 outside the Cannes Inter-Continental (€400 and above per night), the sand on the free slice of beach, with the backpacking, pasta-and-sauce eating, tap-water-drinking proletariat, is every bit as nice.
From Barcelona, Samy and I head to Perpignan, France, to stay with his aunt and their family. It is an exciting three nights of cultural immersion, culminating in the highly enriching experience of an elegant night of fine French cinema at its intellectual best: The Punisher (in French).
A light drizzle coats the back of the camera hanging around my neck. Released from the steel gray sky, the tiny drops aggregate on the plastic as I stand lingering, idling amidst the ebb and flow of travelers. A stiff, cold breeze abruptly enters the mix and the reaction is instantaneous amongst the crowd: scarves get wrapped tighter and jackets get zipped up higher and gloves are pulled more snug.
Casting off for an extended voyage is a paradigm shift in the experience of usual, brief sojourns. I cherish the basics: Having only beginning and end points to a trip. The freedom to think of time as a minor, abstract detail — able to move in any direction, to capitalize on any moment. Spontaneity. Serendipity. Experience. As for so many travelers, these themes have become my very definition of escape.