Around the World in Eighty Days


Michael Palin's first foray into global travel, Around the World in 80 Days, was a massive and unexpected hit. Palin wasn't even the first choice to make the BBC program, but it was such a ratings smash, and the accompanying book such a huge bestseller, than it led to a veritable franchise of other travels: Pole to Pole, Full Circle, Sahara, Himalayas, Brazil, Hemingway and more.

However, for this trip, in 1989, Palin was a travel novice and he describes the inconveniences and discomforts of this race against time with the same good humour as he reports the delights and surprises. Most of the time is spent on cargo ships and trains, pretty the only way to move around the globe if airline travel is outlawed. His fictional predecessor Phileas Fogg had a plethora of passenger ships to choose from in every port, but Palin and his Passepartout (the small film crew) have to anxiously coordinate the arrival and departure of various container vessels to keep their schedule.

Where Palin really excels is in his natural warmth and interest in the people he meets along the way, always eager for a conversation and a new experience (though he does get tired and cranky, too). It's so funny to read about his time in Tokyo, where he describes such exotica as sushi trains, pod hotels and karaoke as big novelties! Palin writes with wit and ease, always with an eye to any possible humour, which makes him an ideal travelling companion.

It's no big spoiler to reveal that he and Passepartout made it back to the steps of the Reform Club just before their deadline -- but the club wouldn't let them in!

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