Sunday, August 12, 2012

5-9-2010 - Train to the Midi

Later…Guido drove me to Milano Centrale to catch the train to Marseilles. We arrived early and said good-bye, and now I await the posting of the rail for the train to Ventimiglia, where I will transfer to Nice and from there to Marseilles, where I have (hopefully) a reservation at The Holiday. This will begin the “organized,” or commercial part of my trip.
From Milano to Ventimiglia… I showed my ticket to the conductor and this seems to be the correct train.  I’m in a compartment with (so far) five other people.  The train is underway and the surroundings of Milano are passing by quickly.  Wild poppies grow in patches along the side of the tracks.
I believe we just passed over the River Po beyond Pavia, going towards Genova.
We are now traveling along the Mediterranean Sea, still in Italy, approaching, I suppose, what can be considered the Cote d’Azure.  I hadn’t realized that the land here dropped so precipitously toward the sea.  The train has traveled through many tunnels and I have been wearing a mask after I started having breathing troubles in one of the earlier ones, before Genoa.  The sea is on the left, and mountains and hillsides rise steeply on the right.
In the train compartment with me are two American couples; now the whole compartment speaks English and is riding Eurail since two Italians left at Genoa.  Two of my compartment companions are American soldiers from Iraq on R & R.  They spent the past week in Rome and have another week before they must return to Iraq.  The other two, from Alaska, are celebrating their 25-year anniversary with a two-week trip to Europe.
Later, I’m on the train in the station, about to depart from Nice to Marseilles.  I hope I’m sitting in the correct seat and car. 

The trek from Ventemiglia to here was dreadful.  There was no lift (elevator) or even escalator in the station at Ventemiglia; there was no information on trains in the station; and the loungers in the station seemed deliberately ignorant.  Perhaps it is local sport to watch the tourists trying to navigate the obscure and difficult passageways in this out-of-the-way - but essential - transfer stop between Italy and France.  I had to bump my bags down the stairs from our arrival track, one at a time.  Then I carried the smaller one to the top of the stairs (uscita & vaggia), and was hauling the larger bag up one step at a time when a policeman (caribinieri) came down the stairs and carried it the rest of the way up.  The policemen also didn’t know anything about when or where the train to Nice departed from the station. 

There was also a claque of 10 – 15 sports fans, half full of booze: yelling, and singing, and beating on metallic drums, and blowing noisemakers.  It was almost impossible to ask questions or to understand answers in the station’s echo-chamber.  The ticket teller directed me to information; the lady there said that the train to Nice departed at 15:37, on Track 1, thankfully right next to the atrium of the station.  Indeed, there was a sign along the track indicating that a train left at 15:37 for somewhere like Crassa (no indication of Nice).  However, several others hanging out by the track seemed also to think that the train was going to Nice, and some of them spoke English.
We are now passing along the Cote d’Azure of southern France.  I don’t think I’d want to live here.  It’s too crowded with houses and apartments and hotels - rather like Miami.  The big difference is that the houses crop out of steep hillsides rather than rising from marsh and tidal flats.  Here’s an amazing patch of countryside, now – crumbling sandstone hills and mountains rising like dolomites or western badlands, a few houses collected in a valley.  Now here, again, the hills are tamer and houses grow out of them everywhere, like mushrooms in rainy season.
Roman arch in Marseilles


  1. Hi,

    Great info and pics.

    I like your site so today I gave you the Liebster Blog Award. Please go here to get the rules and the button for your website:

    Have fun!

  2. Thank you Sunni! I visited your site too. I'll try to get back to the Liebster award on my site soon.