My morning started early in Rome.
The sun was shining and by 9 am the temperature outside was already heating up. It was going to be a long day as I was making my way back to Paris, but I was ready for the trip on the train. I love the high speed trains that run throughout Europe, they are an inexpensive way to get around and you get to see some amazing sights on the way.
The train pulled in to the Torino Porta Susa station in Northern Italy in the early afternoon and I disembarked, ready to change trains for Paris. The train never came!
I stood bewildered, in a strange place where all the signs are a language that I have limited understanding of. I wasn’t the only one bemused by the situation, I was surrounded by not so happy French people, obviously wanting to make their way home. There was not an English speaking person to be heard.
Overhead I could hear mumbled announcements, in French coming through the public announcement system. Something about the train being delayed. Not much else to do but wait for the train to come – It didn’t. It wasn’t long before the people around me were asking what was going on and we were greeted by a French speaking station guard, who proceeded to tell us that the train had broken down due to the heat, on it’s way from France and they were trying to have an alternate train sent. Okay, my French is pretty good and I understood most of what he was saying, but I was travelling solo and was wondering what I would do if the train didn’t come at all. I wasn’t the only one wondering this and starting chatting with some of the people around me, none of whom spoke a word of English. We had been told to stay put on the platform to be advised of further developments. By this stage, it was so hot, that all I wanted was a cold drink and a sit down somewhere with some air conditioning.
It was what seemed hours that we waited for an update, “it’s okay, I’ve made new friends” I was thinking. I had palled up with a lovely lady and her nephew who were looking out for me and I was thoroughly enjoying their company. The train wasn’t coming… they were arranging buses to take us into France. “Oh cool”.
Not so cool, after what seemed like an eternity, they escorted us to the waiting buses. The bus was old and had no toilet or air conditioning, “this isn’t going to be fun” I thought. It was so hot on the bus and my body was already protesting the heat, but everyone else on the bus was suffering the same. With a little daylight still left, I concentrated on enjoying the scenery on the way. This part of the world is so beautiful and the road we were travelling afforded some wonderful scenery. We reached the French border, where a border guard boarded the bus to check our passports. He looked at mine and said “ahh L’Australie” and gave me the biggest smile – J’aime France! The bus kept going, “can I go without a toilet stop for much longer”, I thought. It was some way into France at a town called Chambery, where we stopped to change buses (they let us have a pit stop there too – thank goodness).
Although we were now on an air conditioned bus, the journey was taking it’s toll on everyone. It’s a wonderful thing that when people from different walks of life and different cultures are faced with a challenge, they seem to come together in the form of camaraderie. Here I was, the only English speaking person on a bus filled with French people, who were considering me as one of them.
The bus travelled on through the night and my legs and feet were swollen almost beyond recognition. I was extremely worried about this as I have previously suffered a bad DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis). The people around me were wonderful and trying to make sure I was as comfortable as I could be on a bus. At one stop a woman a little older than me (who couldn’t speak one word of English), came up and gave me a big cuddle and said she was sorry I was sick. A young woman sitting across the aisle from me shared her food and as neither of us slept for any of the long journey, we shared the internet and talked about lots of different things. These people had every right to be wary of foreigners, it was only two days since the horrific attack on the people in Nice, yet I found myself amongst some of the friendliest people I had ever met.
The sun was rising as we finally arrived in Paris and we got off the bus, we were all exhausted and in need of a wash and a wee lie down, we hugged and waived each other goodbye. I walked away thinking about how I had expected a torturous ride and ended up having an adventure of a lifetime.