Train Strikes and Americans

So after a week of being out of contact with the world I’m back and I did not in fact fall off the face of the world, but it felt pretty nice to be out of contact with everything for some while. So my adventure in Italy you ask? I will start right from the beguinning.

The night before I left was when I bought my train ticket to take a TGV train to Marseille and then transfer to Nice on the duplex trains (weird concept). So the night before was the last night that I would see some of my friends from the Erasmus group so I went and had some drinks outside of Paul Appel building, and then as the others were going to Misquito I went home to pack for my next day travel. I said that I would go back because the Columbians were there getting drunk on their last night, because they were leaving Europe forever and they all started to cry when they saw that I came just for them. It was very sad, but we will all keep in contact via Facebook and e-mails and such; so it’s okay!

I came home at about 02.00 and went straight to bed knowing that I had to be up at about 07.30 to get to the station on time. The train was coming from Paris via Strasbourg headed to Marseilles via Lyon Part-Dieu. That’s one crazy trip! Anyways, I got to the train station with my backpack and sleeping bag and got onto my train and found my horrible seat in one of the four-persons places. Obviously nobody sat in the right places because there were fights over the seats the entire time. There even was this girl that was trying to get to Besançon and didn’t have a ticket, the conductors just harrassed her and said that she was trying to use her huge tits to get out of a sticky situation. Too bad that the conductor was gay and didn’t fall for any of that trip. Also there was a girl that was heading to Marseille but she didn’t have enough money to get there so she had to get off the train in Venise near Avignon. I found the situation really funny, especially since I totally didn’t realise that I was on a special train anyways which was doubled for some reason.

In any case my seat was right acros from the bistro so I was disturbed quite a bit with people going to eat and drink; but noticed that it really was just the same people so I was a bit confused. There was this woman who got on the train at Besançon who looked a little weird. She was heading towards Marseille also but she had this odd look about her that made me think that she was homeless. She kept clutching to her bag like it was the only thing that she owned, so I took a bit of watching mode for the entire trip. It turns out that another woman had taken her seat and put up a fit when she went to reclaim it, so she was moving around seats for the whole eight hours, poor woman. She was sketchy looking though with skinny fingers that reminded me of an old witch.

On the way when we got to Avignon Markus sent me an SMS from his Skype profile which was a great surprise, since he had no other form of communication. He said that he would be there for when my train arrived in Nice. This made me excited and very nervous all at the same time. Anyways we arrived at Marseille St-Charles train station which was completely under constuction. It was so odd to see the entire place just wrapped up but it’s a huge station. All TGV trains everywhere, even duplex ones which are just double decker trains basically.

I had to wait only 20 minutes but as I was getting ready to get off the train I noticed the really overly-goodlooking person that was working in the Bistro as he sat ready to get off the train. As I was looking for the track that I was supposed to be on, I noticed that the worker met with a child and another overly-goodlooking man. This is where it clicked in my mind, they were a gay couple with a child; how amazing I thought especially for a backwards country like France. This theory was confirmed as the two men progressed to kiss passionately whilst hugging their child on the train platform, all I could do was smile when I walked by giggling to myself saying that “I knew it!”

I walked all the way down the platform to where my train was arriving with my seat and the opressive sun beated down on my head and made me sweat in moments. Since I had arrived in the south I could tell that humidity was huge, the sun was always seemingly at noon-position, and people seemed even more ethnically diverse. The train finally pulled in and the mass amount of people got off the train, and I finally managed to get in there. The car that was in, had a seat in the lower level at the end of the train and it looked like there was no space for luggage until I got passed this British group who were loud and obnoxious.

I managed to put my bag at the bottom where there wasn’t anything else and found my spot next to a tired woman who was with a newborn baby. I thought to myself “Wow, ideal spot to spend two hours of my life” but it really turned out well as the baby slept and played. The woman looked like that she was having a horrible time, but as we made some stops some seats opened up so she put the baby to lay down elsewhere. As it turns out the train was coming from Calais, and basically was a connection crossing the country from the EuroStar from London, hence the large amounts of British people around me. I pretended not to understand English so that I fit in better with the French population. By the time we got to Cannes, everyone had gotten off the train, so it was quite bare and there were these two woman who got on at Cannes and were heading for Nice.

They were cenile I reckon, speaking very loudly since we were the one ones in the compartement. They spoke very thick accented southern French with a lot of slang but slowly because they were older. They kept saying that I was looking at them and that I didn’t speak French, so they were saying rude things. I should have just piped up and given them a piece of my mind, but they were just having too much fun bitching about other stuff that was going on, like the closing of the Cannes Film Festival and such which is why I assume many people got off the train in that region.

Finally arriving in Nice just before it was about to rain, I headed to the main station which was a riot with people everywhere and Markus found me and we were off to the hostel that he had reserved a room with him. We got there and this really nice but ignorant Australian girl was in our room. Turns out she’s never been outside her town in Australia and didn’t know there were different accents of people, so she was quite a differnet breed of Aussies that I’ve met before. We were basically fasting so we went out to the local market to get something to eat. We decided on sandwhich meat, local cheese, and baguettes; all cheap and easy to make!

We went to the kitchen and began our binge, which turned out pretty well with additional lettuce that I got to be more healthy! We ate and then went back to our room to meet a Kiwi guy who was sleeping and two other Kiwi women who were quite a bit older than the rest of us. We were making our beds and the two women, who were sisters were just complaining about everything known to mankind. They hated the hotel (which was weird, but for the 20€ price exactly what you pay for plus AC!), and the people and the weather and everything. They were just miserable, but whatever, we humoured them. They are, like most of the people in Nice on this programme called BusAbout which apparently allows you to get on a bus at 7am and go to various cities that are on a circuit. So everyone was headed to Barcelona the next day, with no accomodation plans at all, so I just couldn’t help but laugh.

We went to sleep and then woke up a little later than we had hoped, but it was okay because we went down to the kitchen for breakfast and met these three Americans that Markus had previously made aquaintences with. They were really nice and not ignorant like most of the other Americans that we had met along the way. We talked for awhile and it turned out that the entire Côte d’Azur region had train str
ikes so there was no service except to Paris. This was no good since we wanted to get to the border of Italy by noon. So what we did was went to the train station and I went in an asked some questions, and we found the bus station. The lineup was absolutely massive, for a bus that goes through Monaco to Menton which we thought was a border town.

Somehow we sqeezed our way to the front of the bus, and after seeing the two Americans we had met at the stop, we managed to get in, him and I being the last two allowed on the bus. We were like sardeens on the bus which was completley unsafe, but was funny because we were the last to arrive and there was at least 200 other people still in line! I feel bad, but not that bad! On the way to Menton we took an aditional 1.5 hours to get there since the traffic was so bad (due to the train strike). Once we got past Monaco the bus was less unbearable and since I was segregated from the others, Markus came back to sit with me which was really nice of him. We talked and laughed about the fat French man that I had spoken to earlier after he was commenting on the disgusting accent of English, and the unsafeness of the bus (which was completely true).

We got to the terminus of Menton and had no idea where to go, so we went to the signs for Tourist Information but being a Sunday everything was closed naturally. Next stop was the train station to see if there were any trains going into Italy, they told us that there was nothing and that there was no bus connection. No bus connection, so how are we supposed to get to Ventimiglia, the border town? Well I thanked the woman politely and went outside, we walked down the strip of the town and I asked some locals how far it was and if it was walkable. They all told me very short distance and that it’s doable. The Americans had these huge backpacks, and Markus and I had significantly smaller ones, so I looked for other options. I talked to the man at the Casino and he told me that it’s 15km to the border of Italy and that walking would be long and difficult so it would be better to get a taxi. I called the taxi company and one showed up to the train station, where there was a group of Italians who were waiting for some reason. It turns out that he came because of my call but the Italians were trying to con the cab out of us.

We decided that the it was cheaper and easier to take a taxi across the border, since it was only 5€ each, so we did that after I got into the cab before the angry Italians. It was better becasue I spoke French and the taxi driver only spoke broken Italian. We got to the border and the train station, and since we were going to Cinque Terre, along the coast we had to get our trains, and the others were going to Milan, which meant that they had to go Genova first. We got our tickets and we were all on the same train so we stuck together before getting a few photos of course!

Funny thing about this trip was that the moment I arrived Markus dragged me to the market and he baught this huge bottle of Polish Vodka for some reason, so we had been holding it the whole time and baught some fruit juice to mix with it. So we downed a bit of it on the train before the conductress bitched at us for not having the right seats, so we moved about 10 times before arriving in Genova to change trains. We had a few hours later we had to split up after meeting this Italian conductor who took our photo and pulled an “I love America, America I love you” in a thick Italian accent. He was funny and put a smile on our faces while we were saying goodbye.

We got to our train and waited…

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