Ok… We know we said this blog would be about our time in Rome… but we feel like our FIRST international train ride was such an interesting adventure that it needed its own blog! So we will be doing a 2 part Rome blog! We hope you enjoy this story as much as we enjoy telling it!
The last we left off we had just spend 3 crazy busy days in France! We enjoyed all the great sites and had some questionable food. We do not recommend ordering a hamburger… unless you like cold raw meat that’s brown on the outside, but the patisseries were AMAZING (even the ones in the subway!) Our feet were slightly (and we mean slightly) wet in international travel by the time we were headed to destination #2.
Our final hours of Paris were spent waiting on our train for Rome at the Gare de Lyon. The train station was beautiful but busy. We got there WAY too early but as new foreign travelers we did not know any better. At this point our train left at dinner time and we were starving. We never had taken an overnight train so we thought it would be neat to actually eat on the train. It was all about new experiences, right?!
Our first thought was to get settled then we were going to find the food cart. We located our “room” and we use the word “room” liberally. The train cabin was a box. The length of the cabin was about the size of a normal sofa plus a kitchen chair next to it by the width of 2 twin beds next to each other. The 3 of us could sit on the lowest bed and stretch our legs out and touch the other wall. Needless to say, overnight train traveling is not for someone who is claustrophobic. The running joke was a jail cell had more room and less people. (Not that any of us personally know this!)
So, we meet our attendants, set up a time for our beds to be pulled out and handed over our passports. Off to find food! We were so ready for a good meal and a new adventure. We did get our adventure, just not the one we were expecting. That’s what we get for having expectations on this trip.
We find the food cart and it was only the next cart over! Great! Until we realized it was a deli counter style. Not what we were expecting at all. A common theme of this trip was we would we so hungry we didn’t care… and sometimes it was not a good mindset. Well that was this mindset… so we’re all in line just waiting for our turn (and it was a long line because everyone was getting food to eat). While waiting in line, we got our free wine sample (who does love free wine), trying to decide what “delicious” item we wanted to eat, all the sudden our train was slowing down… and then it came to a sudden stop. Ryan was in the back, which was a good thing because he prevented me from falling. Everyone starts chattering about why the train is stopped, but we figured it was nothing major until ALL the electricity shuts o. We are standing in a dinning cart, no food and no electricity. Awesome! After a few minutes the backup generator kicks on, so we have enough light to vaguely see. What does this mean for the food, well all the hot food (which we all three had decided on) is no longer available. Cold Sandwich it is… and nasty cold sandwich it was.
After enjoying our “wonderful” food in a tiny, dark booth on the train by cell phone light, we decide to head back to our cabin. As we were taking the LONG hike back, the electricity comes back to life! That’s awesome news for us… or so we thought. We reach our cabin the time the attendants had come to prep the beds. We ask the lead attendants what was going on… and he informed us that we were having engine trouble. What did engine trouble mean to us…. Well, first they’ll see if a mechanic can fix it and if not then they will unhook the engine cart tow it away and bring us a new engine cart. So this could be a 3-4 hour process… At this point you’re thinking, well it’s an overnight train so you should be fine… except we had a connecting train to catch at 6am.
We’re on a broken-down train, exhausted so we thought bed time would be our best bet. We have 3 twin size bunks in our tiny box. Ryan was sent to the top, Krystle in the middle and I was on the bottom. We had one goal at this point… to get a photo of all 3 of us in our bunks and because it was so tiny, we could! We all “settled” down till the giggling started. Oh yes, our overnight train turned into what can be explained as middle school girl sleep over. Each of us was extremely slap happy, under fed, and unable to fall asleep.
Each bunk had its own night light switch as well as well as a switch to the main light. Not going to blame anyone, but someone (and it wasn’t Krystle or Ryan) decided it would be funny after being in the dark for about 15 minutes to turn on the main light. Needless to say, I was not everyone’s favorite, but it amused me highly. So that started another round of giggles and shenanigans. We all get settled back down gain and then Krystle decided to start things up again by turning on her light. HOT MESSES! That is the best way to describe our bedtime on the train. We are pretty positive our neighbors did not like us but honestly, we did not care.
Eventually we settled down and fell asleep. When our alarm went off and our passports had not arrived back, we knew that we were WAY behind schedule.
Our passports arrived back about 2 hours after we were supposed to catch our connecting train. This started the panic. We had booked a tour for the Vatican City in the afternoon, thinking we would have time to plenty of time to check in to our hotel, clean up, get a bite to eat and head to our tour… Well here we are several hours away from Rome and about 3 hours behind. The normal procedure for a missed train is you will get a new ticket for another train. This can be lengthy process and could take several hours, especially when you find out half the train missed their connection.
We finally unload off the train and they’re forming 2 lines… those who were going to Rome and those who were not. We join the long line for Rome where a train station worker was explaining that the train conductor had agreed to let us on his train that was leaving in about 5 minutes without being re-ticketed. Our instructions were simple… follow the train station worker, get on the train, and find any available empty seats. See like I said simple. We were herded off to the next train when we notice this Asian girl, maybe around 15, looking confused and on the verge of tears. She did not speak English or French… but we asked if she left Paris and was going to Rome… she shook her head yes, so we signaled her to follow us.
The crowd of people were filing on to the new train in the first few carts… we decided to go a little further up. We found a train car and got on boarded, with our luggage and newly acquired Asian girl. Krystle was leading the way and we decided to keep heading towards the front. The train started moving, and the passengers were giving us evil glares. As much as you try to be courteous, it’s ALMOST impossible to avoid every single elbow in the aisle way when trying to walk on a moving train with luggage.
There are 2 seats that look open, so I ask the lady if the seats were open and she said yes. So, Ryan and I put our luggage in the overhead storage and tried to get Krystle’s attention. She finally notices we’re not with her and when she comes back, we were informed that she has the tickets so when they come for them if we’re not all together there will be an issue… valid point… Ryan said he was willing to stand, or we could take turns standing for the train ride.
Frustrations were coming to head at this point, we’re going to be late and possibly miss our tour and we could not find enough seats to sit down. Krystle went off to find a staff member. Ryan and I take a seat, when we are suddenly approached by another passenger (who was sitting a couple rows behind us). We could not tell you what was said to us because we did not speak Italian. The man was basically threatening us for taking these empty seats. The sweet lady was trying to tell us to stay put and talk to him at the same time. Eventually we heard a word that sounded like “reporto”… Ryan said very loudly “yes get us an attendant, please!”
About this time, a gentleman that works on the train came toward the situation. He looked at us and asked if we were on the Paris train. When we said yes, he told us to follow him that there were plenty of seats in Business Class. At that moment, the angry passenger just gave us this WTF look. We thanked the sweet lady who tried to defend us, Ryan pulled down our luggage (which may or may not have hit the angry man standing in our personal space). We start to head up, when we come across Krystle in the next cart, upset but talking to another train attendant. Once again, we are told to keep heading towards the front to business class.
The attendants failed to tell us that business class was quite a few carts up. Ryan and I led the way, passing through the food cart and VIOLA we made it to business class!!!! As soon as we entered a cart, there were 3 seats together and another a few rows up. All 4 of us could finally have a seat and not be harassed. Ryan and I sit down when we notice that we are alone. Our crew had dropped by 2 people. We sat there for a few minutes. Nothing.
Search party time… I venture back a few carts to the food cart when I notice Krystle and our Asian friend were sitting there. Ushering them to follow me, they reluctantly joined. Showing Krystle where we were sitting and showing our friend open seats a few rows forward. FINALLY, WE ALL HAD SEATS AND WERE ON OUR WAY TO ROME!
The train ride was smooth sailing after all this. We each just relaxed, enjoyed the few luxuries of business class (like red orange juice). We all dozed o or were in our own little worlds for a few hours until we arrived in Rome!
We hope you enjoyed the train adventure as much as we enjoyed telling it. Sorry for the length but it was just too much of a great story to cut short! Please join us next week for our Rome adventure J (Psssss…. It’s not as crazy as the train).
Nicole & Ryan