The romance of travel is dealt a sickening blow the moment you have to find employment. For a period, the novelty of a new place and all its mysteries can sustain you but depending upon the work, this can be short lived. How many of us have faced the slings and arrows of a dead end job in an effort to extend our stay somewhere or to ward off the looming threat of starvation?
Down & Out In Paris & London is a deep dive into this world.
Memories of stuffing Tupperware filled backpacks with food from the cheap, gambling subsidised buffets during a snowboard season in Lake Tahoe when I was 19 came flooding back on reading this. Minimum wage survival is celebrated whilst on the road but the tales of 1920s poverty that Orwell experiences and documents are truly harrowing.
The book is journalistic in its approach to the concept of poverty, with the characters and locales becoming the stars of the narrative and educating Orwell and subsequently us on what life looks like on the bottom rung of the ladder.
His attention to detail brings the cities to life, the grittier side close up and an outsider's perspective on the finer parts.
What stood out to me in this book is how Orwell treats travel. An opportunity to learn. Its the people that you meet and the experiences that you wouldn't have if you never left the comfort zone of home that make travel valuable, not just relaxing in a deckchair for a week as a break from routine. So take a leaf out of Orwell's book and extend your stay and engage with those you wouldn't come across back home. Flying solo is the best way to stretch yourself.
Oh and whilst in Paris; walk the stairs to Sacre Coeur and eat crepe Nutella and drink a bottle of something red with the word chateau on the label, wander the stores and streets of La Marais and eat falafel, cycle along The Seine and stop for baguettes and brie at the foot of the Eiffel Tower and wash it down with another red whilst seated at a roadside bistro, preferably Cafe Les Deux Magots, frequented by the Lost Generation writers and if you run out of things to read then Shakespeare and Company in the Latin Quarter opposite the Notre-Dame has you covered.
You'll never be impoverished for something to do in Paris, so get at it.
'It was lamplight – that strange purplish gleam of the Paris lamps – and beyond the river the Eiffel Tower flashed from top to bottom with zigzag sky signs, like enormous snakes of fire. Streams of cars glided silently to and fro, and women, exquisite-looking in the dim light strolled up and down the arcade.'