After a relaxing nine days in Paris I’d seen the sights, hung out with friends, experienced some real French cuisine, and minus the having-to-be-somewhere, I have some idea what it would be like to live in the city. Having the opportunity to stay with someone gives you a more intimate view.
Until last Friday I had been planning on continuing my adventures through Northern Europe then the overwhelming desire to spend time with Summer won me over. It’s been two months since we’ve seen each other and although we talk regularly I really wanted to actually spend time with her. We’d talked about her joining me in Paris but that wasn’t going to happen so I had to find another way. The last few days of my stay in Paris I spent a lot of time on the internet scouring every possible combination of flights, trains, busses, and ferries to get Summer to Europe – I’d even looked at flying back to Portland for a little while. The end result – mission accomplished! She will be joining me in Italy for a couple weeks and I can’t describe how happy that makes me. I’m looking forward to sharing the experience of looking up at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, taking a gondola ride in Venice and possibly taking in a performance of Mozart in Vienna. I’m a romantic, deal with it.
She flies in on Thursday so I arrived early to figure out the transportation systems and locate the places we’ll be staying, that way she doesn’t have to suffer through my inevitable wrong turns and confusion. She’ll see enough of that while she’s here; there is no reason to expose her to it right off the plane.
I took the night train to Rome from Paris, a 14 hour journey and my first experience in a sleeper car. I have a first class railpass but there were no more first class berths available so I booked for second. It was cheaper and I have no frame of reference so it was as comfortable as I could expect. Called a “couchette” it was a room no larger than most of your bathrooms and smaller than some. Upon first glance there were two beds, two bench seats, and a Vietnamese couple in the cabin. After a little investigation we discovered that the backs of the bench seats folded down to create a total of 6 beds each with a little less than two feet of clearance above the other. Shortly after that a Korean couple and their 3 year old child arrived. It was quite a switch to go from hearing the romance languages to Asian dialects.
I had the one of the top bunks and after a couple hours of sitting between the two couples I ascended to my perch and read there for a while before falling asleep. I woke up at about midnight and found that the Vietnamese couple had folded out their beds, the Korean father had taken the other top bunk, and the mother and child were cuddled up on the bottom bunk. With no windows open the cabin had started to heat up and I had no control over ventilation so I decided to go explore the train a bit. I tried as quietly as I could to exit the cabin, but then couldn’t get the door open. Someone woke up after a moment and showed me how to unlock the door.
The train had stopped and when I exited the cabin I walked straight into two police officers. Apparently we were at the border city of Velbon and the passenger’s passports were being checked before we crossed into Italy. I stepped off the train and chatted with another passenger named Vincent for a little while; he is an Amateur Photographer and was on his way to a holiday in Rome to take some fresh pictures as his eye had tired of Paris. We talked cameras and lenses and the benefits of this and that for a short while before the train doors tried to close.
The night passed uneventfully but was an interesting experience. I passed in and out of sleep. The jerking of the train was a big departure from the slow methodical rocking of the cargo ship. Several things you learn quickly when budget traveling are that you need to abandon any concepts of personal space, you can get by on little food, and that your body will find sleep where it can no matter what the conditions.
We arrived in Rome about 20 minutes behind schedule and, following the directions to my hostel that I’d written down, I found it without a single wrong turn. I walked into the check-in to hear the Red Hot Chili Peppers blasting and the excited staff buzzing around speaking perfect English. Check in isn’t until 1:30pm so I locked up my luggage and made my way to the bar for a coffee and some free Wi-Fi. After check-in I’m looking forward to a hot shower and a change of clothes, and then I’m off to explore this already amazing city in the sunshine that I’ve been missing.
I’ll try to get some photos processed and up in the next day or two. I’ve got tons from Berlin and Paris that are in RAW format and I need to convert them before I can post them.