Saturday, February 25, 2012

Rough Crossings

Even though Evelyn Waugh's Vile Bodies begins with an account of a "sick-making" English Channel crossing on rough seas, I read it and wondered whether one can still cross the Channel by boat. Could I perhaps take a ferry between England and France, rather than the Eurostar through the Chunnel?  That seems like the sort of thing I would do.

(Oh yes, did I mention?  I've a trip coming up. Late June. London and Paris. Eleven days. Please feel free to give recommendations of sites/restaurants/shops to visit, for London particularly. Also seeking recommendations of Paris places that have opened in the last five years or are off the beaten track.)

According to train-travel website The Man in Seat 61, it is still possible to make the crossing via ferry but it takes nine hours, instead of two, from city center to city center.  So much for that idea. I will already be spending fewer days in Paris than in London and I can't cut into my Paris time like that.

Meanwhile, having discovered The Man in Seat 61, I'm reading itineraries and accounts of train trips all over the world, and dreaming up future vacations...

Also, isn't it strange that both Evelyn Waugh novels I have read -- Vile Bodies and Brideshead Revisited -- feature an important scene that takes place on a rough sea voyage that leaves most of the passengers seasick?  The opening scene of Vile Bodies, and the scene in Part II of Brideshead Revisited where Charles and Julia take advantage of the fact that they are "good sailors" (and Charles' wife isn't) to begin an affair. I can't recall any other novels that describe seasickness so vividly, though the Guardian lists some examples.  Do you think Waugh was a good sailor or a bad sailor?


George in Chestnut Hill said...

A table outside La Mediterranee at 2 Place Odeon, Paris 75006 near the Luxumburg Gardens and the Senate would make for a delightful lunch. The gazpacho with dollops of crabmeat was memorable. And the restaurant logo was designed by Jean Cocteau! Prior to that an interesting morning could be spent at the Institute du Monde Arab to check out the Jean Nouvel designed building with apertures that open and close with the sun and usually some good exhibits. Also the rooftop view of Notre Dame. In the same neighborhood is the small Hotel Abbaye Saint Germaine on Rue Cassette where Marcello Mastroianni used to stay while visiting Catherine Deneuve. It's interior courtyard is a charming spot for breakfast. Or cash in your 401K and stay there in room #303 and have your own terrace overlooking the sixth arrondissement! Some pre-trip preparation for 1945 era train travel in England might include David Lean's "Brief Encounter" with Celia Johnson or Michael Powell's "I Know Where I'm Going" with Wendy Hiller.
Safe travels!!!

Dr.J said...

I guess Waugh was a good sailor, as he published many travel books (from his debut with "Labels: a mediterranean journey" on).
Wonder if your edition of Vile Bodies is dedicated like mine to the couple Bryan and Diana Guiness, he was the heir to the Guiness beer fortune and she later married the infamous sir Oswald Mosley, leader of the black shirts fascits english party. It is said that Evelyn was in love with her from their youth and that she and her many sisters were portrayed in some other books like Huxley´s "Point counter point" and A. Powell "A dance to the music of time".
Sorry I don´t have many suggestions for London, ages I am not there...always went for dinner to Simpson on the Strand (Strand 100) after a character in Wodehouse "Cocktail Time". Ever considered Madrid into the bargain?

Marissa Skudlarek said...

George -- Ooh I love that Cocteau logo for La Mediterannée. I spent a nice afternoon at the Institut du Monde Arabe 5 years ago -- I was taking a class at Jussieu, nearby. I already have my Paris lodgings taken care of but will keep your hotel recommendation in mind for next time. And thanks for reminding me that I need to see "Brief Encounter" -- the film has been on my list for years ever since I saw the theatrical production at ACT!

Dr. J - Yes, my copy of Vile Bodies (a vintage edition from the late 1940s) has the dedication to Bryan and Diana Guinness, née Diana Mitford. The Mitford sisters fascinate me and I actually reread Nancy Mitford's novels "The Pursuit of Love" and "Love in a Cold Climate" right before this.
Spain will have to wait for next time I'm afraid!

George in Chestnut Hill said...

Also Victor Hugo's house at 6 Place de Vosges is fun just to see all his watercolors!

George in Chestnut Hill said...

Hi Marissa: Unfortunately you just missed "Brief Encounter" at the Stanford Theater in Palo Alto (Dec 17-18, 2011). Definitely a film to see on a 35mm print to experience Lean's B/W cinematography (particularly the depth of field in the opening credits as the smoke from the train swirls into the station) and a good sound system so Coward's choice of Rachmaninoff's piano concerto sets the mood. You'd probably enjoy all of Powell/Pressburger"s 1940s films: "A Canterbury Tale", "I Know Where I'm Going" and "A Matter of Life and Death". All beautifully crafted and acted with The Archers's acting varsity! And if inclement weather precluded filming Powell always had a briefcase packed with whiskey and chocolate (!) so he and his staff could hop on the "Flying Scotsman" for day hikes in the Hebrides! George