The overnight train we took might win the prize for the most unromantic way to travel between two of the most romantic cities in Europe.
We booked an overnight train because we were tired of buying cheap flights, only to spend more on the early morning transportation and more expensive lodging close to airports. The only affordable options left when we bought the tickets were bunks in a 4 person or 6 person train car. Reminded of a painful overnight train I had done back in college, we sprung for the extra 20 Euros to have just 2 strangers in our car.
Paris was starting to warm up significantly they day we left, and I’m convinced the train sat in the direct sun for like 6 hours before we got on. After jostling to hop on, we were instantly hit with the heat and Matt started sweating. Then we got stuck in the classic find your seat traffic jam. Picture the worst airplane boarding you can… then make it worse. We stood in the train ‘hallway’ for maybe 15 minutes waiting for people to figure out that they had way too much luggage and people to fit into one train car (and don’t forget the baby).
We finally make it to our car, plop down, introduce ourselves to Francesco, the Italian. He seems nice, but doesn’t speak English.
I found out, yes, the air conditioning is broken. It must be around 100 degrees in the train. The windows only open about 3 inches at the top. But it doesn’t matter because we aren’t moving yet so there’s no hope for new air.
But now back to the unfolding drama in the car next door. Two larger ladies from Oklahoma are trying to understand how they are going to fit into this car with the baby and four other people with just as much luggage. They are standing in the hallway for about half an hour while people scurry back and forth between another car with luggage, people, and baby. This continues after we depart the station.
At this point, Matt and I are thinking we hit the jackpot with just one calm Italian from Bologna. The air starts to cool off just enough that I start to think the evening might be tolerable. Wrong. A man shows up with a suitcase big enough that I could (probably) sit inside, and says he’s in the car too. Umm… Matt says, “where does that go?” pointing at the large red suitcase. Man says “I donno… up there?” and point to the small luggage rack up top. The suitcase is too big for the full grown man to lift, so Matt helps him shove it up to the luggage rack and half of it fits. Then the man leaves, probably to the bar car. After about 20 minutes, the suitcase slips, and Matt pulls out some rope that we have and ties it down. I wasn’t about to sleep under that thing.
After some episodes of Amazing Race, season 1, it’s time to figure out sleeping. Bunks get pulled down, luggage is shuffled around, and the last addition to our car magically returned just in time, smelling like cigarettes. Discovering they are both getting off at Milan (the 6am stop), we decide to pull the red luggage down (still takes two grown men) and put it on one of the unused lower bunks for easy access in the morning.
Finally, sleep… and then Francesco closes the window! Doom! Apparently it was too noisy? or maybe blowing on his feet too hard? I don’t know, he didn’t speak English. But the result was so much sweat! And no sleep. We melt when it gets too hot. We belong in the Northwest.
Fading in and out of a sweaty sleep, our car smells like stale smoke and overheating people (gross). Add to it occasional hacking from smoker dude, and you have the most unromantic overnight train ride from Paris to Venice.
This is me trying to catch a breeze from the hallway: