Europe by Rail

Trip Start Mar 31, 2011
Trip End Jul 05, 2011

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Flag of Switzerland  , Basel,
Wednesday, May 25, 2011

We got on the train in Florence at 8:40 and arrived in Milan around noon. We had already made our reservation on the next train (we learned our lesson) so we sat around for an hour until the train left for Zurich at 1. This train was slightly more eventful-- the train was really hot and old, but we magically got to switch to a new fast train after about an hour! We were particularly happy to get off of train number 1 because we were sitting next to an intolerably loud Italian woman. All of the Italians seem to yell all the time about everything, even when they are not upset. It's definitely unnerving because we don't really understand much of what they are shouting at us... The second train was far superior-- we sat next to a group of beautiful 18 year-old Canadian boys that were fun to talk to and the views out the window were absolutely unbelievable. Adrienne and I will be taking the same train back from Zurich to Milan in a week or so, and we will try and get some pictures on that ride. The sun was on the wrong side for good pictures from the train this time. 
At 4:30, we arrived in Zurich and ran to catch a connecting train to Basel. Thankfully, we didn't need reservations on this one so we just marched on and grabbed a few empty seats. The train only took one hour, which was good because we were pretty bored of the trains by this point. At least we had plenty of food-- we bought a dozen eggs the day before with the intention of boiling them, then realized that there was no hot plate or stove in the kitchen of the hostel, so we made a bunch of egg sandwiches using the microwave to cook the eggs... delicious! We definitely didn't go hungry.
Upon arriving in Basel, we rushed to the ticket counter to try and make reservations on the train to Paris in the morning. We were not very optimistic after the Italian train fiasco, and the Swiss ticket person told us exactly what we were expecting to hear-- France limits the number of seats available to train pass holders to a ridiculously small number and the train is sold out. No surprise there! Trying to get to Paris has been the single most difficult thing we have done this entire trip. Nearly all of the logistical problems we have had have been due to Paris. I'll be damned if I'm going back through Paris a second time in June-- we will have to figure out a different way to get from Spain to Holland/Denmark. Maybe on a plane... Or maybe if we take a night train that starts in Spain and ends in Switzerland it will be like we were never there.
Anyway, the only train option is to leave at 5:40 AM for an epic 8 hour journey. With this in mind, we hurried to the hostel, hurried around Basel, hurried to find dinner, and hurried back to the hostel to go to bed. Luckily, the hostel provided us with an unlimited tram pass for the nights of our stay, so we were able to take the well-organized public transportation everywhere we needed to go. We visited Marketplatz (square), Munsterplatz (church), and the Rathaus (town hall) before heading down to the river for sunset. Then, we began trying to find food. We checked the prices on about 10 places before finally giving up and finding a grocery store to eat our ever-popular staple-- bread and cheese! The pizza in Basel is 25 franks (around 32 dollars), the "Big and Tasty" burger at McDonald's was 12 franks (15 dollars), a small Starbucks frappuccino was 7 franks (9 dollars), etc. Needless to say, there was not a chance in hell that we were going to pay that much. Groceries were cheap though-- we paid 10 franks for bread, pretzels, croissants, swiss cheese, fresh mozzarella cheese, yogurt, and chocolate milk. And it will last us through the entire day worth of trains tomorrow! Good deal.
We went back to the hostel for our picnic, then tried to go to bed. Unfortunately, it was a really big hostel so there were groups of teenagers who seemed to be on a school trip staying in dorms close to ours. They were so loud and stupid-- running all over the halls and screaming. Eventually, I went out and yelled at a group of French idiots and they stopped so we were able to get a little bit of sleep.
At 4:30 AM, we woke up and packed up our things. After a short walk to the train station, we jumped on the train to Mulhouse.  Then we changed in Mulhouse to a train to Nancy, then another change to a train to Bar-le-Duc, then an hour layover before getting on the train to Paris Est. What a mess! At least the trains were nice and we made all of our connections. There was a really nice French woman who tried to help us get on the faster train in Nancy, but she didn't have any luck either. Now we are on the train from Bar-le-Duc to Paris, and should arrive in about a hour. Then we are supposed to take a few metros to the hotel, then a few metros to Paris Nor train station to pick up Adrienne. Hope this rendezvous is as successful as the last one. Au Revoir!  
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Mom on

Whew! I was at the edge of my seat reading this blog. What a stressful trip to Paris. Hope you make it and really hope you find Adrienne without much trouble.

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