Well, technically, three trains and two subways. While you can get from Edinburgh to Venice overland, it takes time. I left Edinburgh on a Wednesday morning with the 7 am train London Euston, due to arrive in Venice at 9:30 the day after. As I had had a very early morning, I slept much of the way to London, but woke at some point and had a lovely chat with two fellow passengers. That’s what I love about the Brits, they’re usually up for passing the time by talking to you, should you be in the mood. Surprisingly, despite the early morning, I was.
And the train had my favorite train toilets ever. The toilets themselves were neat and tidy, but it was the recorded messages! When I pressed the button to open the door from the outside, I heard “The door is unlocked. Go! You’re free!”. Sitting there, the recording went on to tell us what not to flush down the toilet, including understandable nappies and sanitary towels, but then it took a turn for the weird and added Christmas lights, turkeys and grandads. I was still giggling when I got back to my seat.
There are trains directly to St Pancras but I think the Euston one was cheaper, so I had to hop on a tube to go between the two stations. Normally i would walk but it was raining, so the tube it was. It was crowded and hot as usual, and my winter coat wasn’t making it any cooler. But I got where i needed to go with enough time to grab a quick bite at St Pancras before boarding the 14:22 Eurostar to Paris. The toilet was equally neat but not nearly as fun.
The Eurostar arrives at Gare du Nord and my night train to Venice left from Gare du Lyon. First, though, I had to get some euros so I set to finding a cash machine. Finally, after a fruitless search, I asked the information in Gare du Nord and was told that there wasn’t one working at the the moment due to some renovations, so I had to get out of the terminal and find one across the road. My google maps app had told me that RER D that goes directly between the two stations wasn’t running, but a man at the ticket counter told me it was running fine. I don’t know if it was a temporary thing or a glitch in google maps. Anyway, I got my 1.90 euro ticket and got on the RER train. Ten minutes later I was in Gare du Lyon.
I had time to get a sandwich and then it was time to board my train. the Thello night train has sleeping cars and couchette cars, the latter being cheaper. I had a ticket for a 4 person couchette, which cost about 10 euro more than the 6 person one (still only 59 euro), and I was glad I paid the extra. The 6 person couchettes looked so cramped, with three bunkbeds stacked on both sides, and six people and all their luggage crammed in. The sleeping cots had very little headroom and looked like open sided coffins.
I shared my room with a Chinese couple and a young French woman with her barely a year-old baby girl. Man oh man they had a lot of luggage between themselves! My relatively small wheeled trolley took little space by comparison. To continue with my toilet reviews, these were the worst. The toilet bowl opened to the track below so when you sat there, your bum was slapped by a cold, brisk breeze. Really, Thello? Other trains manage not to discharge the toilets to the tracks below. Get with the 21st century!
Soon after departing Paris, a train officer came around and took our passports, promising to return them half an hour before arrival in Milan the next morning, after border security check. I managed to sleep some during the night, but first it was hot and as I kept turning the thermostat down, it got cold. I have clearly lost my knack of sleeping anywhere, in whatever strange company, which I developed on my Grand Adventure. It didn’t help that we were woken up around 4 am by the border agents when we crossed the border to Italy. They had our passports and asked each of us a few questions and then went away. Short and to the point.
We were almost an hour late into Milan, where all my roommates disembarked. With the room to myself I got myself ready for the day as best I could with wet wipes (don’t travel without them!) and settled to wait. And wait. And wait. Finally, around 10 am a train officer came along and told us that we all had to get off the train as there had been a bad accident and we had to take another route to Venice. I found out later that a commuter train had derailed in Milan with at least three people dead. You can’t really complain about delays to your journey hearing that.
Soon after we were onboard a new train and on our way to Venice on some local train that stopped at every stop, it seemed. The only bright spot about the four hour delay to my journey was that by the time I arrived in Venice I could go directly to my hotel and check in. My hotel also turned out to be really nice, with a huge king bed all to myself, and 10 minutes’ walk from both Rialto and St Mark’s Square.
Luckily, on the way back to Scotland ten days from now, I will take the northern route via Germany and the Netherlands, spending four nights with friends along the way. I don’t think I could handle another 24+ hour journey. I guess I lost the knack for that too. Happily, though, Venice was worth the effort.
P.s. the square photos in the post were snapped with my iPhone and posted on my Instagram account, and the photos in the slideshow taken with my main camera.