Yineka-Mou and I now left Vernazza, one of the five towns of the Cinque Terra, this morning at 10:30. We first caught a local train to Monterosso, one station along the line, and at 11:05 ( the train was 10 minutes late) caught the Inter-City express to Milan, via Genoa. We're hoping that they make up the time, or at the very least not lose any more time, as our connection at the huge Milan Centro Stazione is only 15 minutes, before we catch the Express Train to Venice. We were lucky enough to have the 6 seat compartment to ourselves until Genoa, when we were joined by an Italian lady and her little daughter ( Allesandra). Despite our initial misgivings ( I'm thinking now about our flight on AirAsia to KL, where we seated in Kindergarden Class!) little Allesandra was a delight…. well behaved, charming and pretty.
I'm writing this blog on the Venice train, so we obviously did make it in time. Our train to Milan arrived in 11 minutes late, which gave us just 4 minutes to get off ( with our far too much luggage!) and find which platform the Venice train left from….luck was with us today, as our train had arrived on platform 10, and the Venice bound train was waiting just 10 metres away on Platform 11, right opposite. So it was a very quick off/on, and by the time we'd found our reserved seats ( First Class, window seats 10 and 11A), argued with the fat italian guy eating a Big Mac sitting in my seat, the train was pulling out of the station….Phew!
Poor Yineka-Mou… I'd already told her before we left Oz, that she could take as much luggage as she wished, but she'd be responsible for lugging it around….well she limited herself to 16 kilos when we left, but already this has increased due to her inability to pass by any clothes shop without buying something… so far this trip she has bought a new red coat in Italy, and in Barcelona ( from H&M) two pairs of trousers and a knitted top, for just 35 euro… but then she found a very exclusive little store, 'Custo Barcelona' ( AnnaM, you should go there!), which left more than a bit of a dent in my VisaCard. Two dresses, a cardigan and a handbag. I wish she'd stick to H&M, I like their prices better.
Anyway, back to Vernazza and the Cinque Terre. We'd arrived there by train from the South of France, where we'd been staying for a few nights with our friends, ( the ones we met up with in Barcelona-see my blog 'Who's the guy on the left' ) who live in a village called Lauzerte, near Toulouse. They had driven us to the train station at Montauban, 35 minutes away from their house, about 9pm in the evening on Sunday (26th May) . Our overnight train to Nice wasn't due to leave until 11:40 pm, and as we didn't want to keep them hanging about, we said our goodbyes then. Montauban on a Sunday evening, especially around the train station, is not exactly an exciting place to be ( unless the excitement you seek is the thrill you'd get wandering around the seedier part of Gaza Strip, wearing a kippah.!) Where are the Europeans I wondered… as we made our way down a side street, carting all our luggage behind us ( The guy, or quite possibly the girl, who invented wheels on suitcases should be given a Nobel peace Prize…no argument about it! ) to what looked like the only place open. It was a very small Kebab Shop, with two tables and chairs outside, under the street lamp, and two females and a guy sitting at them. A drink would be in order, so in mangled french I asked the if they served wine or beer… I may as well have been speaking Greek…in fact, they possibly would have understood better, as they were Turkish. ( They told me this in english, so I asked them the same question in Greek and they understood!!!) . So there we both were, sitting outside this Turkish greasy spoon (greasy kebab?) joint, and killing time until our train was due, by drinking cheap wine and watching the local muslim population arrive to buy their daily fix of a kebab. I have to say though, that the proprietor was extremely friendly and helpful…and fast on his feet…. you only had to ask him for something ( another glass of plonque?) and he literally ran to get it…. we asked him for some wine to take on the train ( we are not sure if there'll be a buffet car on the train…and there wasn't) and he obliged with an empty plastic water bottle which he filled from a carafe, some plastic cups and a block of frozen icecubes wrapped in plastic…Great service…thank you Mustapha… at 11:30 we headed back to the Station, and by now it was quite dark…. and a little unnerving….. what is it about railway stations that they attract a certain type of lowlife…they obviously weren't waiting for a train …. but ennobled by half a litre of finest Turkish Vino, we jostled our way past the Taliban to the train platform!
After the briefest of
arguments disagreements with Yineka-Mou regarding which platformn the train would arrive on, ( she was correct!) the midnight express arrived right on time. We found our reserved and private, sleeping compartment, and proceeded to get ready for a good nights sleep. TGV-France provided us each with a sleeping bag, a pillow a bottle of water and an amenity pack . Very comfortable it was too, and it wasn't until after we'd left Toulouse, by which time we were fully undressed and asleep, that I heard someone trying to open the door and get in. I told them to 'get lost' , politely of course, and tried to get back to sleep…. a short while later there was a banging on the door, and it was the train inspector ( Inspector Clouseau I called him, or was it the Fat Controller from Thomas Tank Engine?) telling me to over and over again to “Open Zee duur Mezzuurre' I 'ave to zee yuur Teeket' As I wasn't dressed for visitors, I slid the door open just a little, and peaked around it…. but no, he wanted to come right in. OK Clouseau, your problem. Behind him was a young women who said we were in her compartment. I showed them both the ticket ( and showed them even more than that!) and Clouseau scratched his 'ead and admitted that “Zo Zorry, Zer 'as been a meestake, pardon meezuure, bon nuit” yeah, and Bon Nuit to you as well mate….. though to be truthful, I did momentarily think that we could have made room for the young, very attractive lady…it would have been the Christian thing to do…. and could have been a VERY Bon Nuit !!!!
OK, we have just passed the station before our destination at Venezia Santa Lucia railway station, so must end this now, and get ready to disembark….. so call this post part one… look for part 2 in a couple of days…. to be continued.