Here’s her first posting to entice you. Eva loves to be challenged so please feel free to leave her tricky questions and demanding tasks for her to tackle whilst she is on her travels!
As I arrived at the train station yesterday morning, to board the first tube of the day and make my way to St Pancras International, my father (dawn chauffeur and master of misquotation) said, ‘Every journey begins with a single step.’ He may have been right physically, but every journey actually begins with the mental footstep into an idea.
Thus, the seed of my travels actually began in January of this year, at King’s College London, three floors beneath the Strand. Windowless, airless and with the air conditioning causing the two-hour (exclusively female populated) seminar to huddle and block out the roar that made the space seem and taste of long-haul flights. It was, and is, the strength of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu’s letters that they can undo the discomfort of recycled air, static, nylon-polyester chairs and un-ergonomic desks the size of paperbacks. I couldn’t have imagined that the very first text we read in the course on 18th Century Travel Writing would lead to this journey alone across Europe to Istanbul in search of my final year dissertation.
Having spent this degree making and breaking allegiances with “schools of thought” and “isms” I want to take a more organic approach. Montagu’s journey invites orientalist, post-colonial, gendered (and many other) readings; I want to experience these travels as openly as possible – if I’m honest the only genuine mindset I have is guilty-white-middle-class-itis.
Nearly three centuries on from Montagu’s original journey (1716-18) as described in herTurkish Embassy Letters, and with a King’s Travel fund bursary and the last months’ wages, I hope to spend (apologies for the pun!) the coming weeks following her outgoing itinerary and emulating her experiences where possible. Whereas she travelled by boat, horse-drawn carriage and sledge, I will be covering a journey that took more than six months, in weeks and by train. My journey begins in Paris with the greatest deviation from the original, outgoing route. Paris was Montagu’s final destination before returning home – I find myself the (happy) victim of funding requirements so this is where my own pseudo Turkish embassy letters begin…
PS: I’d like to take this first blog-posting to invite comment and suggestions. If possible I would love this blog to generate some sort of discourse, and also not feel like I’m writing into intangible cyberspace with the only audience my paranoid parents! Feel free to comment publically below or in private to email@example.com.
PPS: My dad (again!) tried to recreate the final scenes of Brief Encounter at St Pancras. Turns out 21st Century railway stations are not conducive to filmic moments.
PPPS: The personal attack alarm (leaving present courtesy of the boyfriend) went off in the bag scanner causing a near bomb alert meltdown at St P. ‘DO NOT TOUCH THE BAG!’ shouted at me as I desperately tried to stick the pin back into grenade-like alarm. I left red faced and feeling like I had been judged as professionally paranoid.
 Can’t escape the student-hangover of a footnote! Cheapest and most easily available is the Virago edition of Turkish Embassy Letters, edited by Anita Desai . The best edition is Halsband’s three-volume tome. Have left the details at home, but do remember that it is rarefied, out of print and expensive to come by…