Phileas Fogg did it on trains, ships, and elephants, but nowadays no one - apart from Sir Richard Branson - would go about circumnavigating the globe in such a difficult way. The new film of Around The World In 80 Days re-routes Fogg and and his valet, Passepartout, away from Suez and sends the pair east, via Istanbul, in their attempt to prove that a gentleman can circle the earth in less than 12 weeks. I got out my guide books and decided that it ought to be possible in 12 days, even if Concorde is no longer breaking the sound barrier from New York to London.
To test my journey plan, I rang round travel agencies specialising in tailor-made tours and asked if they could help me Fogg my way round the world. It wasn't as easy as I'd thought. Most tended to specialise either in one part of the globe or one kind of transport. As this was going to have to be a journey that mixed train, plane and pachyderm, if necessary, I needed a flexible friend. I found him in the end. Stuart at Global Village had never been asked to organise a complete east-bound circuit of the planet but was one of the few willing to try.
We decided that we'd go for the fastest form of transport possible but that I would aim to spend one night in each of the destinations in which Phileas (Steve Coogan) and Passepartout (Jackie Chan) touch down. This trip should not deteriorate into Around The World in 80 Transit Lounges. As for cost, the original Phileas had a budget of £20,000. I wanted to come in considerably under that, but we'd aim for business class flights all the way. This was going to be a punishing schedule; so The Independent on Sunday ought to let me do it in comfort.
Day 1: London-Paris
These days with British Airways you can leave Heathrow at 8.55am and be in Paris Charles De Gaulle by 11.20am. But all the getting to and from airports adds considerably to the time so I opted for Eurostar, which leaves Waterloo every half hour and can have you at Gare du Nord, where Phileas disembarks, three hours later. The cost was going to be £215 if I booked a single but, such is the nonsense of travel economics, I got a first-class return for £139. This compared well with British Airways's club class fare of £333.90.
I decided to stay at The Hotel Balzac, just off the Champs-Elysées. As it has a great view of the Eiffel Tower and its Jules Verne restaurant, it seemed a suitably auspicious start to my journey and worth every penny of £214.
Running total: £139 + £214 = £353
Day 2: Paris-Berlin
Coogan's Fogg travels to Berlin to pick up the Orient-Express. I decided that I'd been faithful enough to Jules Verne now, particularly as Air France runs a service to Berlin Tegel that takes only an hour and 45 minutes. A business class ticket was going to set me back £411.60 but it would mean I'd have no problem taking breakfast in one capital and lunch in the next. Setting Stuart on the task of calculating how much I'd save travelling in economy, I looked into cheap luxury hotels. The choice is wide but the Westin Grand offered a double room for £128 a night. As this was within walking distance of the French Quarter and Check Point Charlie, it seemed a good place from which to see the obvious sights. Fogg makes a point of playing cards below deck rather than gawping at the sights but my plan will definitely take in some tourism en route.
Running total: plus £411.60 + £128 = £892.60
Day 3: Berlin-Turkey
Bizarrely, "Prince" Arnold Schwarzenegger makes a guest appearance in the new film, inviting Fogg to dine with him in Istanbul. I decided I'd better follow this diversion via Turkish Airlines, which flies first class from Berlin at 4.30pm every day, (arriving at 8.15pm). The cost is steep at £352, but if you pick up a taxi quickly there's time to make it to the Bosphorus for a late supper. Last time I was in Istanbul, I tried to get into The Four Seasons, which is in walking distance of sites in the film such as Haghia Sophia and the Topkapi Palace, but it's often fully booked. Instead, I arranged to hole up in the Mövenpick, which offers western comfort and security for £124.
Running total: plus £352 + £124 = £1,368.60
Days 4 & 5: Turkey-Bombay
In the book, Fogg and Passepartout make their way to Bombay on a steamer and manage to arrive two days ahead of schedule, losing their advantage when the love interest, Mrs Aouda, is introduced. I opted for Singapore Airlines, a flight that connected in Dubai with Emirates. I'd be leaving Istanbul at 1.30pm, have three and a half hours in a transit lounge and arrive at 2.55am the next day in Bombay. At £1,187.30, the cost staggered me but at least I'd be getting a chance to see the Gateway of India which is situated opposite the hotel that Global Village recommended, The Taj - pretty palatial for £78 a night.
Running total: plus £1,187.30 + £78 = £2,633.90
Day 6: Bombay-Calcutta
According to Jules Verne, Fogg and Passepartout start this part of their journey by train but have to swap to elephant when the tracks run out. Having enjoyed Indian trains in the past, I was tempted to follow suit until I found out that the train would take 48 hours because it first swings up to Delhi. In the end we settled on a local airline, Jet Airways, which could pick me up at 4.40pm and land me in Calcutta by 7.10pm, and all for the cost of £206.80.
Stuart already had a hotel in mind: the Oberoi Grand, 15 miles (24km) from the airport but famed for its Thai cuisine. Having confirmed these arrangements, I found this part of Fogg's journey has been cut from the film. As Passepartout is now (inexplicably) Chinese rather than French, the director wanted to move the story on to Jackie Chan's home village as soon as possible.
Running total: plus £206.80 + £66 = £2,906.70
Day 7: Calcutta-Hong Kong
In Verne's original, Fogg makes the crossing to Hong Kong by boat and is crucially delayed by a storm. When Michael Palin retraced the route in 1989, he was becalmed for days on end. So I took Stuart's suggestion of an Indian Air Flight to Bangkok which left at 9.15am and arrived at 1.10pm to connect with, of all things, a Finnair flight that got me into Chek Lap Kok International at 6.30pm. The total cost was £452.60 but it won me a sleepover in Hong Kong, somewhere I'd been yearning to see. The Peninsula Hotel has a rooftop restaurant overlooking the harbour. At £257 per night it's a good place to view the dockside where Passepartout gets drugged and put on a separate boat from his master.
Running total: plus £452.60 + £275 = £3,634.3
Days 8 & 9: Hong Kong-Beijing
In the new film, Fogg and Passepartout stop over in China, so I copied Michael Palin and arranged to take the 4.10pm train, departing Hong Kong on even dates at this time of year, and arriving in Beijing at 6.05pm the next day. A deluxe soft berth would cost £110. I didn't feel any desire to save money and book a "hard berth" for £66 in one of the communal carriages.
Train is a great way to see China but I knew I'd need a good hotel at the end of it so I agreed that Global would book me into the Kempinski, a modern block in the city's diplomatic quarter with easy access to Tiananmen Square. With five stars to its name, the Kempinski charges £200 a night. No doubt it would have been cheaper to stay with Chan's family, but the hotel option was bound to prove more restful.
Running total: plus £110 + £200 = £3944.30
Day 10: China-San Francisco
Having lost a day travelling through China, I allowed just the morning for a quick look round before catching a United Airlines Flight from Beijing Capital Airport at 12.50pm. By a quirk of the time zones this would land me, 11 hours and 55 minutes later, in San Francisco three hours before I departed. Or that's what Stuart claimed. The cost of this piece of temporal sorcery was not cheap - £1,444.50. In 1873 this was "the most difficult part of the journey over" according to Verne. It certainly was the most expensive leg so far.
After such a flight I was glad to see that Stuart was planning to book me into The Clift, in the heart of San Francisco's theatre district. Around 100 years old, The Clift uses its lobby as a museum of modern art where artists such as Dalí have displayed their wares. Pretty good value at £133.
Running total: plus £133 + £1,444.50 = £5,521.80
Day 11: San Francisco- New York
While it would have been a childhood dream to drive across country to New York, my Kerouac pilgrimage could easily have taken me a week. Fogg opts for the train but, in the book, he gets attacked by Indians. The new film has omitted this politically incorrect disruption, but even so I decided that I was going to fly. Time was now of the essence, so I decided to take a United Airlines flight, which left San Francisco at 11.30am and touched down at JFK at 7.49pm after a journey of five hours and 19 minutes. The cost was £1,034.70. Internal flights in the States are relatively expensive but my reward was to be put up in the Waldorf Astoria on Park Avenue - its Art Deco cocktail terrace is one of my favourite bars in the world. An ideal place to celebrate the last stage of my projected journey and not bad value for £144.
Running total: plus £1,034.70 + £144 = £6,700.50
Day 12: New York-London
Without Concorde the time to across the Atlantic has risenn to seven hours, but it's still an improvement on Phileas' return journey by boat bound for Bordeaux. In the film, this breaks down, leaving Fogg struggling to turn it into a flying machine. I opted for a more reliable form of air transport - the British Airways morning flight out of JFK, which landed in Heathrow at 9pm. Business class costs a staggering £2,550.80 so I asked Stuart about economy flights - £1,799.
Final total, excluding meals and taxis, £9,251.30. Next time I follow fictional characters round the globe I'm definitely going economy.
For further information on circumnavigating the globe contact Global Village (0870-442 4848; www.gvillage.co.uk).Reuse content