Trans Europe Express

Here I am at last, back at my blog after a month traveling in Europe, with no –  repeat – NO – laptop, only an iPhone, an Italian dictionary, and intermittent access to WiFi. (Less often than promised, no thanks to you, railway stations of France.)

As it happens, there is so much to do and see, when traveling in countries you’ve never been in before, that I didn’t have time to miss the internet, reading other people’s blogs, or writing on my own.

In Australia, we live so far away from most places, that traveling to almost any other country is a huge logistical and financial endeavour, so (speaking for myself at least) we don’t do it very often, and when we do, we feel compelled to make the most of it.  I aimed to see as much as I could, because it’s likely that I’ll never be in those places again.

For this reason, I had never planned to write my blog while I was travelling – I didn’t have the time or the headspace, and I didn’t go overseas in order to sit at a computer and write. In fact, shame on me, I didn’t write anything at all (with the exception of one blog post, written when we had access to a pre-historic computer in an apartment we were renting). That’s right, in a full month I wrote nothing more than an occasional shopping list! I didn’t scribble a single note to remind myself later of where we went or what we saw so that I could turn the whole trip into a jolly adventure story after the fact. (I did take over 1000 photos, so they might serve to jolt my memory of the trip if I do decide to publish my memoirs any time soon.)

It was a deliberate decision not to take a notebook and write notes to reference later. I wanted to be “in the moment,” rather than to be stepping back and constructing how an experience could be written about, even as it was still happening. Even when we travelled by train across Italy and France, I preferred to use that time to take in the landscape – and consequently saw some breathtaking scenery which I will probably never see again. I can stare for ages at landscapes/cityscapes/scenery, with that thought in mind – that I’ll probably never see this again. (You will notice that I add “probably” to myself, optimistically implying that there is a chance I might see it again.)

So now I’m left wondering where to start and what to say, about the past month that I spent in Italy, Spain and France.

Paris, looking over the Seine

Paris, looking over the Seine. Fake cloud backdrop courtesy of Paris Skys Pty Ltd.

There is so much that could be said, and probably has already been said by better travel writers than I (in fact, I’m not widely recognised as a travel writer, and given how infrequently I travel, other than to regional country towns to visit aging parents, I’d be mad to give up my day job and try surviving on travel writing, so let’s just admit here and now that I’m not a travel writer!) that almost every observation I could make about traveling, or the places we saw, seems in danger of sounding either trite, superficial or patronising. There is no point in me telling you all that Rome was fantastic, Paris was beautiful, Venice was pretty, Nice had a beautiful beach, etc. This is information you could glean from any travel brochure.

Looking over Barcelona, Gaudi architecture in the foreground

Looking over Barcelona, Gaudi architecture in the foreground

It will have to suffice for this post, for me to say that one surprising thing I noticed on this trip was how time slowed down. A work colleague told me this would happen, but I didn’t believe her. I’ve travelled before, but my memory of this effect must be hazy – I don’t remember noticing it. It’s surprising because you expect that, if anything, you’ll be having so much fun that time will fly, as it is proverbially supposed to do in that situation.

In reality though, we found that we were cramming so much into our days, and traveling to so many different places, (we stayed in 10 different cities in one month, and saw a LOT of train stations) that after a day and a half in a particular city we’d feel like we’d already been there a week. After the first week, we felt like we’d been traveling for a month. By half way through the trip (ie about 2.5 weeks in), we’d talk about things we did or saw in the very first city we’d been in, and it felt like we were talking about some distantly remembered holiday from years earlier. The other surprising effect of this was that, by the one month mark, despite being in Paris, we were not entirely sorry that the trip was coming to an end – apart from the grim awareness of the gruelling 22 hour journey ahead of us.

Overseas travel is a bit like having a baby, I guess – once you’ve gone through the extended period of pain that is 22 hours in transit, had a shower and a sleep in your own bed, and recovered from the tiredness, you are open to the idea of planning the whole thing all over again. Should finances permit.

Palantine Hill, Rome, in the middle of the city.

Palantine Hill, (Roman Ruins), in the middle of Rome city. Note scale of teeny-tiny people to massive ancient columns.

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3 Comments

  1. Very jealous! And you are so right about the long trip.

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  2. Glad to hear you enjoyed your trip! lucky girl!!!

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