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Around the World in 80 Days

Day 78: 11 December

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 DaysWe leave France at seven in the evening. The weather is settled. The Channel is millpond calm. There's a chill in the air as we move slowly out toward the harbour wall of the fishing port which Francis I christened Le Havre de Grace in 1516. Past the euphoniously named Bassin Théophile Du Crocq and a last illuminated Christmas tree and onto the high seas again.

As soon as we're clear of the sodium glare of the city lights another wonderful night sky is revealed. It reminds me of nights on the Bay of Bengal, but as Captain Rodebaek points out, it's better. There's more to see in the northern sky.

The day ends with a party, of which I dimly remember a tug of war in which a BBC team, sapped by over-confidence and French Sunday lunch, were pulled to defeat, and a 16-person doubles table tennis tournament in which the Professor and myself triumphed by a whisker over Jesper and Erik the accountant.

At one point we listened to our recording of Under Milk Wood. Noel, the radio operator, was so taken with it he asked for a copy to take back to his wife. Listening to it with him was particularly appropriate, for Noel has maintained the Indian presence that has been such a feature of my journey. If I were superstitious I'd say that this presence has brought us luck, and as I stand with a buzzing head at the deck rail at two in the morning, watching us turn North through the Straits of Dover on seas of almost freakish tranquillity, I think back to the twenty-eighth day when Jagjit Uppal told my fortune and wonder whether this whole journey wasn't made in Bombay. A last few deep breaths of sea air and back to my cabin to pack my bag and deflate my world for the last time.
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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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