Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Effortless Travel by Rail in Europe...In Your Dreams!

June 14, 2005, 2:40 PM, Torino, Italy

Okay, I’m having trouble staying in my “happy place.” The travel today has been nothing short of hell—an all day thing, apparently. By the time Paolo got us into Sestriere, it was raining buckets and foggy as all get-out. I swear, I don’t know how he kept from driving off the mountain in that pea soup. We bought bus tickets at the La Stampa in Sestriere, but Paolo had bad news. The 9:00 bus—the one we intended to take—was a school bus. And school ended last week. So, we had over an hour and a half to kill, but luckily, we were able to take refuge from the rain in a café across the street from the bus stop. We had coffee and croissants (seems like we’ve been living on nothing but croissants and pizza since we got to Italy), and Paolo had a coffee with us before he had to go back to work. We said our goodbyes and he left.

So, we sat there waiting for the bus, and it arrived ten minutes early. Luckily, I ran out into the rain to ask and make sure it was the right bus. It was, and a nice guy formerly from Egypt helped us with our bags while the bus driver sat there like a lump and watched us struggle to get on. (Why are bus drivers so universally unfriendly? Is it that bad of a job?) The guy worked as a waiter in a ristorante in Cesana, where we had pizza the first night. He was really friendly and talkative in broken English. We finally arrived at the train station in Oulx, and the information guy told us the next train to Torino was at 12:07. (It was about 11:00.) He told us we’d have to change trains in Bussaleno. So, we’re sitting there looking at the departure board, and we noticed there was a train to Torino at 12:37 that went directly there. So we decided it would be better to take that one, rather than have the inconvenience of changing trains. Big mistake. First of all, the train was 15 minutes late, and then when we did get on it, we found it was a reserved train from Paris, and the first seats we took belonged to someone else getting on at that stop. Well, that pissed me off, and I was bitching about what a rip-off the Eurail Passes were (are), and a couple of young Americans backpacking through Europe started talking to us. That put me in a better mood, but I’m still rankled about how difficult they seem to make it for travelers with all their stupid rules and extra payments and everything. Jesus, we paid almost four hundred freaking dollars for these passes. Why are they nickel and diming us to death? ('Well, "euroing" us to death.) Turns out the train we’d got on was one where we needed a reservation, and therefore should’ve paid an extra price for the reservation. (Have you ever heard of such nonsense? Europe is the only place in the world I’ve ever heard of that they make you pay extra for a goddamn required reservation!!!! What a scam! For once, though, luck was with us. When the conductor came through checking tickets, and asking the American couple for their reservations, we were pulling into Torino Porto Susa, so we got off.

Turns out this wasn’t the right Torino train station to go to Genova, so we had to catch another train to Torino Porto Nuova. Our timing was right for once, and the train was leaving in less than ten minutes. But at Porto Nuova, our luck ran out. The next train to Livorna (which is the end destination for the train to Pietrasanta (oh, and by the way, don’t think for even a second that the information officer actually gave me that information—they don’t volunteer a sentence more than they have to, and God forbid they ever actually give you any essential information that might make things a little more clear for the stupid American) won’t leave for an hour and a half. And God knows how far the beach is from the train station.

I’m hungry and sleepy and disgusted, and I just want to check into a decent hotel and take a nap. I’m hoping that will happen before midnight. If I can get something decent to eat soon, maybe I’ll be in a better mood next time I write.


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