The Loneliness of the Not-So-Long-Distance Traveller


The Loneliness of the Not-So-Long-Distance Traveller.

Overall, I travel rather a lot for work. But each trip is not particularly long distance, compared with going to say, India or Australia. For one job, I do tours of English locations such as London, Cambridge and a number of other places, as well as my teaching. For the other, I go to Paris, Cologne, Aachen, Lille, and various other places in France.

I came back on Saturday night after my last trip of this year and I decided to tot up how many hotel rooms I have had this year, and it came to twelve.

That consists of 2 in Austria this February, 1 in Paris in March, 1 in Caen(Normandy) in May/June, 1 in Paris also May/June, another 1 in Paris in June/July, yet another Paris one in October and finally one in Lille this weekend. Plus 4 rooms at the Leicester travel lodge at either end of various trips, because since apart from Austria, all my trips are done over land via coach and the early start (1am in one case) mean it’s not feasible to get from my home on the east coast to the Midlands(or wherever) that morning.

Generally, however stressful these work trips are, and however tiring, I do enjoy them but there are moments when I get back to my hotel room at night and just feel so lonely. I’m the odd one out; the kids have their mates, the teachers have their colleagues and usually, the two drivers have each other to share a quick beer at the bar with.

But the loneliness doesn’t last long. In fact, it lasts about as long as it takes me to get ready for bed and fall asleep.

I’m also pretty stoical about the long hours, the delays and the endless small problems that occur en route; there’s nothing anyone can do about this sort of thing and it is pointless to whine and whinge. With one exception, the hotels I have stayed in over the last few years have been acceptable and the beds comfortable, but you know, they are all starting to look exactly the same!


Anyway, that’s it for this year, travel wise, and that’s probably just as well with the weather problems. I’m digging in and staying put now for a while!

A whistlestop tour of Montmartre

On our first evening in Paris we went out again after dinner to visit Montmartre, the artists’ district of Paris. Because both our drivers had finished their hours, we took the Metro.

The Metro is at once easier to use but less forgiving than the underground in London, but just as crowded and hot and unpleasant. Our station to exit from was Pigalle, which is the red light district, not dissimilar to Soho in London. The eyes of some of the kids were out on stalks….

The Basilica of Sacre Coeur is at the very top of the Butte, the highest point in Paris(apart from the obvious metal tower…) and was accessible by hundreds of steps and by trying to bypass the thousands of Parisians having fun drinking and dancing in the street. There’s also a funicular railway which I think might have been a better option had it not already been late at night.

Party mood filled the streets and I was whisked past a number of bars I could quite happily have settled down in for a glass or two. We paused for breath near the square filled with artists earning a living by drawing the tourists, and before the kids had further breath to complain they were tired, we started off again uphill. I moved on with regret; I’d earmarked some Euros to satsify my vanity by having an artist sketch me.

At the very top the gleaming white wedding cake that is Sacre Coeur looms like a fairytale castle above Paris and its steps were filled with revellers. Someone strummed a guitar and people danced and sang and called out for others to join them.

Having marched to the top, we admired the view. That is to say, others admired the view and I stood dropping with exhaustion and stress and waited till we could turn and return. The walk down the steps was fraught for me as I don’t like heights and lots of steps in the dark, dodging people who had had too much booze is a tricky thing at the best of times, but when you are as tired as I was, it was a nightmare. I got to bed that night at 1am, having started out the previous day at 11.30pm. I worried the whole time we were out that we would miss the last Metro train at midnight; then we would have been truly up a certain creek without a paddle.

It was somewhere I’d really wanted to see properly, and wander round in good time and daylight. I love art and artists and I was genuinely disappointed that we had so little time to enjoy the area and the atmosphere, and maybe have a glass of the wine that is grown on the slopes of the Butte itself.

But one day, I may go back and get a drawing done, and have a taste of that wine…..