PLEASANTEST SENSATION …
FREYA Stark, the British explorer who was one of the first women to do this travel-writing thing, once said “to awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world”.
There’s a good chance Ms Stark was in some exotic Middle Eastern location when she made the now-famous statement – she wrote more than 20 books between the 1930s and 1980s, most which focused on her travels in Arabia, Iran and Afghanistan – but it’s a quote that comes back to me regularly when I’m travelling solo.
These words popped into my head again this morning when I woke up in my hotel room in Geneva, and it occurred to me that I had no appointments to keep during the day so could follow my nose around a city that I had never seen before.
So, after getting ready for the day, I left my hotel and walked along the edge of Lake Geneva before crossing the Pont du Mont Blanc and venturing into the city’s elegant Old Town.
This part of town, the congested neighbourhood that once sat inside the wall that protected the medieval settlement from invaders keen to secure a way across the Rhone River, is now a maze of streets that grew to accommodate those who sought refuge from the Reformation in Geneva.
And, as I walked along footpaths lined with buildings that went back a few decades or a few centuries, I couldn’t help but agree with Ms Stark – to awaken alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.