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Le (not very) Grand Départ

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On Monday 2nd October 1872, Phileas Fogg made a bet (presumably drunk) with his fellow toffs at The Reform private members Club that he could circumnavigate the earth in 80 days. He set off for Charing Cross station that same evening, leaving his pals smoking on their pipes trying to decide what they would spend their £10,000 on.

147 years, 3 months and 29 days later (and 31 years, 4 months and 6 days after the great Michael Palin), I'm attempting to do the same, admittedly by a completely different route and in a considerably slower 129 days. To be fair, Fogg had the sizeable advantage of being a work of fiction and Palin had a BBC film and production crew with him. I have forgotten to pack my copy of Around the World in 80 Days so I can't give a direct quote, but Fogg was also vocal in his dislike of tourists and tourism, preferring to travel for travel's sake or the challenge, rather than to actually see anything! I intend to see a few things on the way.

In Jules Verne's story, Fogg takes with him his "valet" Jean Passepartout (which I think literally translates as "goes everywhere"). I'm pleased to say I have my own Passepartout for the first few days of the trip, although I'm carrying Emma's bag, so again we are not sticking to the script!

The trip is the result of nearly 3 years of gazing at my phone and laptop looking at train, bus and ferry routes, cruise ship relocation moves and cargo ships wondering whether I could get away with something like this, financially, with my employer and with Emma of course! The first month or so was planned with fine detail. With 4 or 5 visas required for the first 3 weeks alone, just getting everything together on that side of things was a fiddle. Therefore it has been completely heartbreaking to watch the news and see everything fall apart over the past few days. It seems terribly ungrateful of me given the wonderful opportunity I have to be able to do this sort of trip, to be setting out this morning feeling a bit miserable. However given the timing of the virus outbreak in China, I feel entitled to feel at least a little pissed off! My planned route takes me right through the middle of Hubei province. Mongolia has closed it's border with China, but at this moment is continuing to allow trains through. The border with Vietnam is also open. However with the Foreign Office advising against all but essential travel, I would be in China without any insurance. There is no alternative without taking a flight, which defeats the object of the trip. I'm looking into specialist insurance and a 3 day dash across China staying as far away from the city of Wuhan as possible but I'll have to keep an eye on the situation.

Anyway enough moping. This was meant to be a transport blog! After a quick photo at The Reform Club, we took the Piccadilly line to King's Cross St. Pancras to meet John for breakfast. John is also starting out on his own travels to Moscow via Rotterdam and Berlin. All being well we will be meeting up again on Saturday. After suddenly realising our Eurostar was at 09:22 and not 09:47 (a good start) we made a mad dash to the check in gates and were relieved to find the security area quieter than usual! We are now safely on board Eurostar 9014 and have just arrived in France. Tonight we board the weekly Russian Railways TransEuropean Express direct to Moscow, a train I have wanted to catch for as long as I can remember. Another update tomorrow hopefully!


Posted by around129 01:58 Archived in United Kingdom

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Congratulations on your start, Love the references to Phileas Fogg, and therefore looking forward to your balloon flight later in the journey !!!

Say helloto Russia, I was there around 1984, it was grim then, bit different today

Enjoy and I look forward to more blogs

by Hgtehunters

p.s. Hgtehunters is Robin (Wetherby Band) !!

by Hgtehunters

All the best John. We have just signed up and will keep watch …. just about to tackle the North Face of Holme Moss. Ray and Elizabeth

by RayEliz

Good luck on your journey to Moscow. All the Brest.

by RayEliz

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