Saturday was a big transition day. If I’d thought about it a little more, I might not have chosen that day for transition, since it was the first day of what appears to be a 4-day weekend for many people in France and Italy. Lesson learned–put the local holidays on your travel itinerary.
I barely slept, then woke about 3:30 am to start the process of seeing Mom and Janet off. Maureen managed to communicate effectively with the cab dispatcher over the phone–much to everyone’s relief–and the driver arrived just before 4:30. We hugged them and went back to bed for a couple hours. At 7:30, we lugged our bags and the trash down the 85 steps from the flat to the street and headed to the train station in Florence. After acquiring bread and coffee, we boarded the first of four trains for the day.
Train #1 was new and clean and relatively uncrowded. They do seem to have neglected to account for luggage in the design of the rolling stock, however. There were no spaces anywhere to stash big bags. So, we had to leave them near the doors and monitor them at each stop. The first indication that this day might not be awesome came on this ride. When the conductor came through, he looked at our tickets and said “just a minute.” When he came back, he explained to Maureen that we had failed to validate our tickets and would be facing a hefty fine. He would not be convinced that we had no knowledge or expectation of this (having never needed to validate an intercity train ticket EVER before, on this trip’s many trains or otherwise), so we had to pay the fine. Sigh. Lesson learned–read the back of the ticket and never assume things will be as they have always been. The guy across from us opined that it was probably mostly a revenue-generating scheme for the Italian train system. I think he is right and after this day I have no love for said train system.
Train #2 was from Pisa (no, not enough time to venture to the famous Tower) to Genoa (or Genova, depending on who’s naming it). We shared a carriage with a large, talkative group of friends or family. Fortunately, they let us have two forward-facing seats next to each other and pretty much left us alone. Italian trains, though, have far less space than their Belgian, German, and Austrian cousins. And the bathrooms. It would be better if one didn’t even have to go there, but we know from experience that train station bathrooms are worse, and you usually have to pay for them! We survived the journey, got our bags off (there was at least storage space on this train) and attempted to determine where to go next. The platform was super-crowded, so I had to fight to get to the departures timetable, only to find that our next train left from the same platform. Yay-no lugging the bag up and down steps to a different platform. We had an hour, so we walked to the end of the platform and enjoyed what may have been the last moments of truly hot weather on the trip while eating (what else?) bread and cheese.
Train #3. Ugh. The worst. This train had compartments. And who might be sharing our compartment but the man who hadn’t bathed (or so it appeared to my nose) for at least a month. Also, there was no place for our big suitcase other than the passageway, which was only *maybe* a foot wider than said suitcase. I literally could not stomach being in the compartment, so I spent the two-hour ride on a fold-down seat in the passageway, trying to read a book and keep our suitcase out of people’s paths.
When we got off at the final transition point (Ventmiglia), it was quite unclear what to do. The names of the only destinations available were not familiar, intermediate stops were not listed on the monitors, and there was no one around to ask. Other passengers confirmed that the train sitting there did stop at Nice, but then we were concerned about validation, as there we no seat reservations and we did not want a repeat of the morning’s expensive mistake. Maureen asked an employee, who just said “on the train,” so we got on somewhat hesitantly. Again, no place for luggage. Fortunately, we determined along the way that we could get off one stop early and save about a mile of walking with suitcases. And no one checked our tickets–on any train other than the first one of the day…
We found our friendly Ibis hotel easily, checked in, and decided to walk down to the water and old town Nice before it got dark. We knew it might be our only chance to see Nice without rain, and it turned out to be a lovely walk (see photos below). The place we had hoped to dine on local specialties was closed though, so we had salad (and wine!) instead at a place vouched for by the Rough Guide.
One last surprise awaited. When I went to plug in devices, I had my power strip, but not the converter that was previously attached to it (at least it was our converter and not the one we’d borrowed!) Sigh. What is it they say? Mama said there’d be days like this?
At least our transition day was not as long or hard as the days that Mom and Janet had–they were still on the move when we were tucked into bed. It’s all part of the adventure–or something like that…
Glad I was not there. Just part of the adventure. Sorry about the ticket alidation.
Just a thought: unless i misunderstand what you mean by “validate”, you usually do have to validate your train tickets before boarding intercity trains in France too (the little yellow boxes you’ll easily find in the train stations). However, even though train controllers (sometimes several of them, even) may pass by several times, they don’t check the passenger tickets that much. (And i don’t know how nice they are if you have forgotten to do it, i guess it can vary a lot, depending on whom you’re talking to… ;))
Thanks for that info. Fortunately the only train we are taking from now is the Eurostar….