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Around the World in 80 Days

Day 78: 11 December

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 DaysAn hour's walk brings us at last into the town itself. The centre, destroyed by bombs in the Second World War, has been rebuilt without flair. Long low terraces are dull in scale and finish and present a dour background to the waterfront area. Quick look in the cathedral, from which people in their Sunday best are emerging after mass. A slightly mad-looking man is trying to get the priest's attention. The priest eventually throws him out.

In these unpromising surroundings we come across a restaurant which serves us a superb five-course lunch and which is by extraordinary and suitable coincidence designed like a railway train. It is family run and cramped in the French style, and we wonder if it's to save space that the patron employs his tiny son as a waiter. Nigel asks the boy his age. He looks about eleven but turns out to be even younger.

'He's seven,' translates Nigel after a brief conversation.

'No . . . no!' the boy protests vigorously. 'Seventeen!'

We don't stint the wine, and drinking the likes of Sancerre and Gigondas after all we've been through is like finding a waterfall in the desert. The walk back to the Leda Maersk seems much shorter and more convivial, and though none of us is admitting it, this unscheduled lunch in Le Havre had a definite celebratory air.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day: 78
  • Date: 11 December
  • Country/sea: France
  • Place: Le Havre
  • Book page no: 248

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