Far, far away

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - SU­SAN KURO­SAWA

And so I fly from Syd­ney to Paris via Singapore and Lon­don. There are de­lays with all con­nec­tions; one of my bags dis­ap­pears and joins me after three days. Mais, voila, I am in France and who could be too down­cast.

Well, the driver booked to take me from the air­port to Bordeaux has dis­ap­peared and I re­ally don’t blame him, as my ne­go­ti­a­tions with the lost lug­gage desk have been com­pli­cated and time-con­sum­ing, in­volv­ing a rub­ber stamp, trip­li­cate forms and a chap in a peaked cap. The driver has my mo­bile num­ber and texts me “Sorry, is now lunch”. Of course.

Even­tu­ally we meet up and hit the road. By now, I have been trav­el­ling for more than 30 hours and am a tiny bit frac­tious. My eyes are red and small like those of a fox and my hair has un­rav­elled into corkscrews, which seems madly ap­pro­pri­ate as I slide out of the ve­hi­cle at our des­ti­na­tion and al­most fall into the arms of the chateau’s wine­maker. “How was your trip, Madame? You are not tired, I hope?” I ex­plain I have been fly­ing for ...

But now he is out of earshot, greet­ing other jour­nal­ists who’ve ar­rived from closer climes.

“Ah, Su­san, meet Melanie, she is ex­hausted, just like you!” Melanie has flown from Gatwick and needs to lie down. The man from Prague has a headache. The pho­tographer from Mar­seilles can’t pos­si­bly start work un­til he has had a shower and a change of clothes. Alors, there is time to freshen up. “Ten min­utes, Su­san and Melanie!”

I emerge on the dot. Melanie sashays in about half an hour later. “Oh poor Melanie, you are still tired?” asks our con­cerned host. “Please sit down. More cham­pagne?” She looks at me ac­cus­ingly as I snuf­fle a snort.

It is im­pos­si­ble, I reckon, to ex­plain to peo­ple who live in more con­nected lands (Europe, es­pe­cially) just what an or­deal it is to fly long-haul. Those care­free con­ti­nen­tals cross borders for break­fast, sashay from Lon­don to Paris for lunch, speed about on ter­ri­fy­ingly fast trains.

When vis­it­ing my rel­a­tives in Corn­wall, they are riv­eted by mat­ters of dis­tance and du­ra­tion. The no­tion of Aus­tralia is syn­ony­mous with Mars. “It took you HOW long?” they ask, ev­ery time, and al­ways with fresh won­der. A neigh­bour drops in. “You re­mem­ber our Su­san?” say my aunt and un­cle. “Oh do I ever!” replies Mrs Next Door. “That’ll be your Su­san who flies 24 hours.” The con­ver­sa­tion rarely ad­vances. They all stare at me, nod­ding, as if I am an ex­otic species just landed, blown off a mi­gra­tory course.

Back at the chateau, the wine week­end is turn­ing out to be a com­pan­ion­able hoot. Melanie even­tu­ally for­gets to yawn ex­trav­a­gantly and the pho­tographer from Mar­seilles perks up con­sid­er­ably after wine with lunch.

I am en­joy­ing the odd no­to­ri­ety of be­ing the one who has trav­elled the most hours un­til I am in­tro­duced to Denise. “Come far, have you?” I ask, a tri­fle smugly. “Heard of In­ver­cargill, New Zealand?” she mut­ters. “Have you any idea ... “

Touche, as they say there­abouts.

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