Travel is an interesting concept. Most people only remember the glitzy, palm-fringed or snow-capped paradises of their trips.
No-one, for instance, is going to take happy snaps of Calais, France.
These places of non-destinatory splendour never make it into the albums. One only remembers them vaguely as the place “I stopped for KFC” or ‘I got stuck there while I waited for my new passport to arrive.”
Here is a list of some of the most non-descript places I have found myself in. No postcards available, sorry:
Pueblo, Colorado, US:
Point of reference/interesting scenery: A Taco Bell, one house, a bus stop.
Why I was there: Greyhound broke down on the way to a ski resort.
Point of reference: A large port, lots of Eastern Bloc refugees.
Why I was there: Missed the ferry. No money, had to sleep next to aforementioned Romanian refugees in port.
Llivia, Catalunya, Spain:
Points of reference: Difficult to tell. Blizzard engulfing vehicle.
Why I was there: To collect my hired skis.
Salida, Colorado, US: (pronounced Sa-LYE-da, like saliva)
Points of reference: a trailer park, the trans-Colorado highway
Why I was there: I needed a pee. That said, trailer parks look at their most desirable – if one can use a euphemism – when covered in blankets of snow.
Annemasse, Haute-Savoie, France:
Points of reference: The sign that says ‘Géneve, 3 kilometres’, the Swiss-French border post itself.
Why I was there: I forgot to check my visa beforehand, and realised if I went into Switzerland, I’d be denied access back into France. Problematic, since I lived and worked in France. The night was spent at the only pub there, drinking Beaujolais plonk with the locals.
Marseilles, Côte d’Azur, France:
Points of reference: The gateway from northern Africa, a giant slum, the black sheep of the French Riviera.
Why I was there: To see the slum. And change trains.
Stanford Lacey, Shropshire, UK:
Points of reference: A house, lots of hedges, a road.
Why I was there: Stuck with puncture on a bike. Don’t ask.
Chumpon, southern Thailand:
Points of reference: hotel rooms reeking in mould, excessive humidity, people that sing karaoke there all hours of the day. 7:00am breakfast-time included.
Why I was there: Overnight stay on the way to Phuket.
Hua Hin, 50 kms south of Bangkok:
Points of reference: a 7-Eleven, a noodle-cooking contest.
Why I was there: I was hungry. And noodles were being thrown around a-plenty.
Xai Xai, Gaza provice, Mozambique:
Points of reference: The mighty, muddy, shark-infested Limpopo River mouthing its way to the beach, various civil war bombed buildings, a fucked reef.
Why I was there: Overnight stay, with a crowd of hippies and old people. Who were keen to see the eclipse, a whopping 3 seconds of darkness and endless celebrations of this ridiculous lunar phenomenon thereafter.
Scranton, Pennsylvania, US:
Points of reference: A highway, clapboard houses, a Wendy’s, three pubs.
Why I was there: Pub stop on a road trip.
Hull, Quebec, Canada:
Points of reference: one half of a completely dull city (Ottawa is the other half), divided by the Quebec-Ontario border (the Ottawa River)
Why I was there: To visit a fifth cousin once removed. Not even kidding.
Dubai International Airport, Dubai, UAE:
Points of reference: Glitzy duty-free shops, large plastic palm trees, gold everywhere.
Why I was there: Connecting flight to Bangkok. Had severe gas. We sat up against the palm trees, with our asses in the air and farted up a storm. That's right.
Bethlehem, Free State, South Africa:
Points of reference: The Engen garage, a giant Jesus cross on the hill.
Why I was there: Twice, actually. To fill up my tank.
Shah Alam, Malaysia:
Points of reference: The largest mosque in the world, empty buildings.
Why I was there: The hotel came with the travel package, only one bus change into Kuala Lumpur.
Oakura, Taranaki, New Zealand:
Points of reference: Ostrich farms, Maori settlement.
Why I was there: To feed the ostriches and buy wool. I was forced by my mum.
Zoar, Karoo, South Africa:
Points of reference: desert, a cactus, a post office and SAPS station.
Why I was there: the name piqued my curiosity.
Philippi, Western Cape, South Africa:
Points of reference: low-cost housing, gateway to the Flats, wind and tumbleweed.
Why I was there: I got lost.
Dainfern, Johannesburg, South Africa:
Point of reference: A giant shite-pipe running through golf estate, lots of Tuscan houses.
Why I was there: To pick up a mate. It took 20 minutes to get through security.
Croydon, Outer-London, UK:
Points of reference: Kate Moss grew up here, lots of factories.
Why I was there: Fell asleep on the tube.
Arlon, Wallonie, Belgium:
Points of reference: factories, large court house, bordering Luxembourg, beer.
Why I was there: Had to get off the train to Luxembourg, because school was out and the kids took over. Drank beer and then still missed the last train to the Bourg.
Bresson, Alsace-Lorraine, France:
Point of reference: car dealerships, car parts specialists, factories and distribution centres.
Why I was there: I got off the train too early. I was meant to jump out at Lille, the next stop.
Totawa, New Jersey, US:
Point of reference: the carbuncle on the back-end of New York City, a Holiday Inn, warehouses.
Why I was there: I was meant to be in Ottawa, and ironically ended up in Totawa instead. Another bureaucratic fuck-up, where the Canadians threatened to arrest me.