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Monday, 22 August 2011

From Paris to Venice

OK, so far we're in Paris Bercy (if you're following me and can put yourself in my shoes, then I refer to 'we'). I've told you about the excruciating smell, waiting for the train in a small station.
Bercy was bustling!

I manage to find a quiet platform  and take myself off and plonk myself down, ready for the arduous wait. It's only half 6, my train isn't until half 8 (PM).

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 hear an announcement, followed by a scramble of people to the cafeteria. Apparently the announcement said that due to the air conditioning breaking down, there will be no buffer car on the Rome or Venice trains.
Train to Venice

"Oh well" thinks I, "I'll just buy myself some Maltesers then" I think this whilst eyeballing the queue to the cafeteria.

The train pulls up - miraculously onto the same platform I have plonked myself on - there's a stroke of luck! Finding the right coach and cabin, however, is quite hilarious! I manage to find it (for some reason, the coach numbers have been stuck on with paper). Each coach has an Italian man in charge of it. He looks down his list and tells me "Cabin 1 - all yours!" with a flourish of his hand.

Cabin 1
I find Cabin 1 - ahhhhh, all to myself! I spread out and get busy making my bed located above the seat. But it's a weird bed sheet sewn together and I can't make head or tail of it! When I eventually get to bed, I end up sleeping with another on top of me and a blanket (the A/C was DEFINATLY working in my cabin), but I am getting ahead of myself.

The little Italian (about 50ish?) man turns 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 came back to my cabin, only to have him appear from nowhere, rushing at me wagging his finger.

"Close the door! Close the door!" he is yelling at me (I'm not exaggerating). I tried to explain that I thought I HAD closed the door (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, shooting myself for my stupidity. Besides, I received back up when 3 young Italians came along with a trolley load of sandwiches (in place of the buffet car). The 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.”

So now it's 11pm and dark. I have shut AND LOCKED my cabin door from the inside, pulled the blinds down (not at the panoramic window to see outside) and feel all snug. I clamber into my bunk, pull up my sheets and blanket and fall into some sort of weird lucid sleep.

My bed

I wake up and look out the window, to see that it’s1am we are in Lausanne (Switzerland?).  Sitting on the bottom seat, I look out the window for a good 20 minutes, trying to decipher where we are.  We are continuing on through Switzerland (the slightly crazy guard has my passport as he says the border police get on in Switzerland to check all passengers passports on board and he doesn’t want to wake us up) and I marvel at the night scenery…illuminated by a half waning moon and oh, the stars!  

Smiling I go back to bed for yet more weird dreams (an American man gets off at Saltsburg in my dream and is shouting loudly on the platform that it’s “oh so beautiful!  I’ve never seen anything like it before, except in Seattle.”  I still can’t work out if that was actually real or not).

I panic slightly when I awake at a long stop, poke my head out of my cabin to see it’s a huge station, but I can see no name.  I find an equally panicky Australian man in the corridor and he goes to find out.  It turns out we’re in Milan, Venice is 3 hrs away.

So the Australian man and I settle back in the corridor and discuss the beautiful sun rising out the window, the fact he drives freight trains in Australia and the fact that we think our guard is a little crazy (the guard has obviously made an impact, and not just on me).

3 hours later, at 09:33 we arrive in Venice.  I feel well rested, a little hungry but excited about this beautiful city.  I have over 24 hrs here before I head off on the ferry to Patras.  Oh!  And apparently I am entitled to a refund as they didn’t operate the train they said they would, so I will get a refund difference of the fare.  The guard tells me this, but goes to pains to explain that it will be sometime in 2012 no doubt.

First views of Venice from the train

I am writing this having spent my time in Venice, but will write a different post about that.  Would I travel by train again from Paris to Venice?  Hell yes!  But I’d research to make sure that Paris Bercy was not the departure station.  The cabins, even though not the intended train, were comfortable and yes, the staff on board provided light entertainment for a while.

Booked through  

1 comment:

  1. The night train from Paris to Venice was recently privatized. You can still book trough TrenItalia, but it is operated by another company. The best bit is they are using different carriages and even better, the train now leaves from Gare Lyon (late 2012). This type of train is a relic of the past and will one day disappear completely. We are not too far away from High Speed Rail all the way to Venice. I recommend this as a must do traveling experience and there is always a good story to tell afterwards.


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