On 1st August 2007 I caught a train from Reading to London at 9.42am, wearing something white in celebration of it being Yorkshire Day. The sky was blue and the moon nearly full. I was going to Paris with a friend on the start of a round Europe trip and arrived in the French capital at about 5pm after an uneventful trip. The FIAP Jean Monet where we were staying was full of Americans and it was just as clean, friendly and efficient as I remembered from a previous visit. That first evening in Paris, we wandered around the arrondissement eating in a creperie off the Boulevard Daguerre called La Belle Ronde. We got back to the FIAP at about 10pm, knackered but excited about the three days ahead that we had in Paris before my friend returned to England and I set off around Europe.
I have an excellent memory don’t I! Well, actually, I don’t. I had decided, in Ernest Hemingway / Bruce Chatwin style (as the blurb from the manufacturer points out relentlessly), to record the trip in a Moleskine notebook. And I have being doing a similar kind of thing ever since on my travels. That summer was documented in all its glory in the little black book as was a trip to Portugal to visit my cousin the following year, and then another trip to Paris (that time with a bunch of 30 students from school in tow) and finally, of course, my trip along the Pennine Cycleway. Everything was recorded, tickets were stuck in, exorbitant prices complained about and encounters commented upon. Text on the right, mementoes on the left.
I haven’t really picked up the notebooks since. I will one day I hope, in my dotage when I am struggling to remember where I went let alone what restaurants I ate in or which people I met! However, the great thing about having a notebook to write in while travelling has nothing to do with writing things down for posterity and everything to do with having something to do while you are sat on a train with only the view to look at and write about, poetically or when sat in a bar sinking a beer with only the day’s activities to look back and reflect upon. It’s also great when you are travelling alone as it gives you something to do. You can pretend that you are indeed Ernest Hemingway (he is up there on the left, in Kenya in 1953) or Bruce Chatwin or Bill Bryson (I bet he uses them too). I’ll get there one day.
So, far more important than the tent or the bike or the maps or the route is the Moleskine notebook and I have just bought a new one for this year’s adventure. Worth every penny of the £12.50 it has set me back.