My first installment of this Eurorail trip got me as far as Paris Bercy. I’ve told you about the excruciating smell of Parisians on the Metro and waiting for the train in a small, packed station. Now let’s look at the next installment: Paris to Venice.
I managed to find a quiet platform to await my Venice train and plonked myself down, ready for the arduous wait. It was only half past six in the evening, my train wasn’t until half eight. Not too long I guess.
Whilst amusing myself with the sight of people crossing the train tracks from platform to platform, blatantly ignoring the “Danger! Do not cross the tracks!” sign, I heard an announcement, followed by a scramble of people to the cafeteria.
Hmm, what’s all this about?
Apparently the announcement said that due to the air conditioning breaking down, there will be no buffet car on the Rome or Venice trains.
“Family pack of Maltesers it is then.” I was eyeballing the queue to the cafeteria as I thought this.
The train pulled up—miraculously alongside the same platform I happened to plonk myself on. Finding the right coach and cabin, however, was hilarious! If I thought the queue at the cafeteria was bad, the pushing and shoving to get to this train was mayhem. I managed to find my coach (for some reason, the coach numbers had been stuck on with paper). Each coach had an Italian man in charge of it. He looked down his list and yelled
“Cabin 1 – all yours” with a flourish of his hand.
I find Cabin 1—yes, it was indeed all to myself. I spread out and got busy making my bed located above the seat. When I eventually get to bed, I end up sleeping with about two sheets and two blankets on top of me: what air conditioning was lacking in the buffet car seemed to have been transferred to my cabin instead.
The little Italian guardman turned out to be either 1) passionate about his job or 2) a little unhinged.
I went to the toilet as we were pulling out of the station and upon returning to my cabin, found him appear from nowhere, rushing at me wagging his finger.
“Close the door! Close the door!” he yelled. I tried to explain that I thought I had (it isn’t possible to lock the cabin door from the outside) but I couldn’t get a word in edgeways. I just smiled and aimed a pretend gun at my head, thinking it best to act like a dumb English girl. And besides, I received back up when three young Italian girls came along with a trolley load of sandwiches (in place of the buffet car). One young girl looked at the guard, looked back at me and rolled her eyes.
“He’s a little crazy” she assured me. “Make sure you lock your door tonight, if anything to keep ‘IM out.”
It was eleven pm and dark.
I had shut AND LOCKED my cabin door from the inside, pulled the blinds across the door (not at the panoramic window to see outside) and felt all snug. I clambered into my bunk, pull up my sheets and blanket and fell into some sort of weird lucid sleep.
Upon waking, I looked out the window to see that it’s one a.m. and we were in Lausanne.
Sitting on the bottom seat, I gazed out the window for a good 20 minutes. We continued on through Switzerland (the slightly crazy guard had my passport as he told us that the border police boarded in Switzerland to check all passengers passports and he—the guard—didn’t want to wake us up) and I marvelled at the night scenery…illuminated by a half waning moon and oh, the stars!
Smiling I went back to bed for yet more weird dreams: an American man disembarked in Saltsburg and shouted on the platform “oh it’s so beautiful! I’ve never seen anything like it before, except in Seattle.”
I still can’t work out if it was actually real or not.
I panicked slightly when I woke at a long stop,
poked my head out of my cabin to see we were at a huge station, but I could see no name. I find an equally panicky Australian man in the corridor and he went to find out—we were in Milan, Venice was three hours away.
The Australian man and I settled back in the corridor and discussed the beautiful sun rise, the fact he drove freight trains across Australia and the fact that we thought our guard was a little crazy (the guard obviously made an impact).
Three hours later, at 09:33 we arrived in Venice.
I felt well rested, a little hungry but excited about this beautiful city. I had over 24 hrs here before I heading off on the ferry to Patras. Oh, and apparently I was entitled to a refund as they didn’t operate the train they said they would. The guard started telling me this, but I left mid-conversation with the Australians as I really couldn’t follow him, and his gesticulations were getting a bit worryingly excitable.
- Research to make sure that Paris Bercy isn’t your main departure station. If it is, check all you can about the stations. NOTE: It may have been upgraded now—2014.
- The cabins, even though not the intended train, were comfortable and yes, the staff on board provided light entertainment for a while.
- Book your Eurorail trip through www.erail.co.uk