Leaving on a fast train

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Today’s travel day from Barcelona to Milan was supposed to be relaxing and a nice change of pace in a travel schedule centered on the word “go.” On this trip, it sometimes feels like Clare and I never stop moving — and never have the chance to catch up on sleep. (At least I’m not getting up at 6  a.m. to run 10 miles every day. If anyone ever questioned my sister’s sanity, here’s the absolute proof she’s nuts.)

We had to jump on a multitude of different trains, all about two-three hours with about a half-hour break in a train station. That meant we didn’t really get to prop our feet up, recline our chairs and sleep, but it also meant that we weren’t walking around all day. (My poor little toes were ecstatic.) To get to Milan, we had to back through France, which meant more speaking French for me.

Luckily Clare had her iPad, and I had my Mac, so we felt like we were pretty set. We didn’t really have much in the way of food, so, at one point, we stopped at a vending machine and got a Twix bar and some peanut M&Ms. Breakfast of champions, folks.


Still, we were pretty hungry, and having a kid behind us on one of the trains with just about every Pringle flavor imaginable certainly didn’t help matters. We tried to get sandwiches at one of the train stations stops, but, while the tops of the sandwiches were warm, the centers were as cold as Kanye snatching Taylor Swift’s mic away at the VMAs.

But the cold sandwiches couldn’t even begin to be as bad as our next train carriage. I’m talking about a serious train carriage from hell. There was a group of about eight people with a father who kept screaming at his children and even hitting one of them at one point because she wouldn’t sit down.

Then, there was his son — no more than six years old — who wandered up to where Clare and I were sitting and started asking for money. After saying no, he wandered to the back of the train and started playing right under where Clare and I had stored our backpacks.

Don’t kill me, Bear!

By this point, several other people had left the train — and Clare and I quickly followed suit. I kept getting weird vibes, and being on your own in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language hardly inspires confidence.

When we got the place to reserve our train from the edge of France to Milan, the man at the ticket counter told us to just get on the train and make the reservation there. At least, I think that’s what he said.

So, Clare and I tried to jump on the train, only to find it was a different sleeper train than the one we were used to. There were no seats, only beds, and we didn’t know how to find an empty space. After trying to bargain with

Does this make us even?

the conductor, we were told that there were no spots on this train, which apparently didn’t have any affiliation with other French or Italian trains.

Say what?

After using the handy-dandy Rail Planner app, we saw that there were trains leaving the next morning at five a.m. for Lucerne, Switzerland, which we had been debating whether or not we wanted to see. Because it was one of the earliest trains, we figured the trip would make sense.

We set ourselves up in a room inside the train station along with another boy —Ed, a 17-year-old from England trying to get to Rome to visit a friend and see his sister — who had suffered the same predicament. Clare and I decided we’d take turns being awake just to make sure everything was okay, and she told me to take the first shift while she repainted her nails. Gotta feel our best!

Right as she finished, I woke up when I heard voices in the room. A couple of security guards and a train official had come to tell us we had to leave. I tried talking to the train agent, but we had trouble conversing. I felt like I had almost persuaded the train agent to let us sleep there, but after her quick conversation with the security guards, our dreams were dashed.

The family from our train car had set up tents outside the station, and I wanted to get as far away from them as possible. There was a hotel across the street, but I didn’t think it made sense to pay for a room for four hours. (I’m an idiot, I know.) So, Clare, Ed and I found a covered entrance to the train station — it was still outside but was a place where you walked from outside into the station — and set up camp there.

It took forever to try and sleep on the hard floor (and I thought some of the hostel beds were rock solid!), but I eventually managed to. However, I woke up in the middle of my turn to sleep shivering and shaking from the cold and couldn’t go back to sleep.

Abs of steel.

Luckily, Clare had solved the problem of keeping herself warm and was doing sit-ups, push-ups and core exercises. Never let it be said that she isn’t dedicated to her sport.

After about five minutes of being awake, I glanced to the top of the stairs of where we were staying and realized someone was just standing up there, staring down at us. I think I had a heart attack. I imagined at least 73 different scenarios of how things would play out, all of which ended in my death.

He just stared and paced for 15 minutes before coming down to talk to us. I’m not sure if this was a good thing or not, but he spoke in French, so I didn’t understand. I tried to be as polite as I could, because I didn’t want to piss off the possible serial killer. He asked where we were from, and he eventually left.

And exhale.

Clare took her turn sleeping (she was out in about two minutes), and a little bit later, it was getting close to the time we believed the train station would open. Clare and Ed both ran up the down escalator, and we all just talked about our plans.

So cold in the station. Our sweats over our leggings didn’t do much.

Finally, the station opened up, and we made our way back to the room we were kicked out of the night before.

About an hour later, it was time to board our train. I’ve never been so happy to take public transport in my life.

We’ll be in Lucerne in an hour or so, but I’m a bit worried about the weather because it looks like it might start raining.

I tried to take more pictures, but train stations aren’t all that inspiring. Here’s what little I’ve got:

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