Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Our journey to Italy

We survived!

OK, so it wasn't really a do or die scenario, but it sure felt like it...

What am I on about this time?

Our epic rail journey from Barcelona to Rome!!
Rough route
OK, so this will be a bit of a step-by-step description of this leg of our trip, so excuse the boring bits (which may include all of this post)..
As I'm sure you remember, we have a EuRail pass, and we're not afraid to use it.

So, in this spirit of adventure, we planned our route from Barcelona to Rome carefully - ok, so we did plan it, but when we got to the ticket office, the plan was changed a bit.

We departed from the lovely apartment we'd stayed in in Barcelona at about 08:00, waddled with heavy packs to the station, which was only about 600m away, and arrived in a sweaty mess (ok, I was sweaty, Naomi was pristine as always) and jumped on the first train at 08:46, so we'd made it with plenty of time to spare.

That train took just under three hours to take us to Cerbere, just inside France, arriving at 11:30.
Cerbere is a somewhat rustic station, with one ticket window open when we got there.
Some maintenance needed..


At Cerbere, we asked about reserving tickets all the way to Rome, and were told that we can only get the tickets for France (which was later disproved, read on), and all the trains we were about to get onto were free [included in EUrail pass].
So we waited for the next train headed in the right direction. So far, not too bad. Not too tired or hungry, easy start to the trip..
Still feeling chipper


We got onto a SNCF train to Montpellier at 12:35, which arrived there about three hours later, at 15:10.
OK, now we were getting hungry, and already a bit tired of this 'sitting on a train' stuff..
So we grabbed some food at the "Paul" cafe, at outraaaageous French (ok, just regular travellers') prices, and waited for the next train.

The next hop was to Marseille, where we had considered stopping overnight, to make the connections work out better. In the interests of faster travel and saving a night's accommodation, we amended this plan to "let's keep going, how bad could it be?".
The train was at 16:39, and got to Marseille at 18:40, so a nice quick hop this time.

In Marseille, we needed to get tickets to Italy, so we proved the Cerbere ticket lady wrong by getting tickets organised all the way to Rome!
The first two trains were again free, then we booked seats on the last two trains to get us there.

We took the two-and-a-half hour trip from Marseille to Nice, leaving 20:31, arriving 23:05.
Getting really tired now... and hungry again.. why didn't we pack more food/snacks for this trip??

From Nice to Ventimiglia (Italy!!), we got the 23:55, which was quite quick, arriving at 00:43.
Here came the problem we were considering overnighting at Marseilles for - the next train out was not until 04:37 !!
And the station was essentially closed - the main building and the platforms were open, but there were no services available, and certainly no comfortable beds benches or chairs around.
What do intrepid travellers do in such circumstances?

Well, if we meet some, we'll ask them.

What we did, though, was camp on the cold, hard marble floor, in a corner of the station building, and read/sleep.
OK, Naomi is blessed with the ability to sleep wherever, when she's tired. I am not, especially when someone needs to keep an eye on our stuff. So I read for a couple of hours, then was dozing off a bit, too. I had the sleepy presence of mind to hook arms and legs through bag straps, just in case..

But "luckily", the floor was too cold and hard for me to really sleep, and soon it was time to wake up.
Sleeping at the station is a group sport..
As the picture shows, by the time 04:16 rolled around, the station had plenty of weary travellers following our example. (It was totally our idea, not the half dozen or so people we saw sleeping there when we arrived).

Sooo tired.....
Hey at least the worst of the hunger had gone away - body was probably too tired to care at this point...
So yay, let's ride some more trains! (That idea to stay overnight in a soft, warm hotel bed, after eating delicious dinner and followed by a breakfast... sounded pretty smart about now.. but let's not look backwards!! Onward!!)

The train from Ventimiglia to Milano was a nice one.  It left promptly at 04:37 and shot like a bullet into the Italian morning, due in Milano at 09:00, but running a few minutes late, arriving around 09:05.

Bleary, weary and starving, we had no time to waste in Milano, as the train to Roma was due to depart at 09:15!!
This was the quickest change we've needed to do, and yes, we ran between platforms.

Made it!!
Now slightly more awake, more tired and sweaty again, we settled in for the 2 hour, 20 min trip to Roma.
Tired traveller on a nice Trenitalia train
We got to Rome, made it to the metro, and two quick stops later were walking into the hotel.
A few minutes later, we were feeding our bellies on delicious Italian food,


and then, to prove we're not wimps, set out for half a day's sight-seeing in Rome!
At the Spanish Steps
All in all, a looooong trip!!!