France (Marseille > Nice) > Monte Carlo > (Ventigmilla > Genova) Italy
Well to say that our trip from Marseille to Genova was a bit of an adventure would be an understatement. Where shall we begin, ah yes the 0430 (Mommy), 0500 (Daddy), 0515 (Sienna), 0545 (Mylan…dragged from bed like an angry bear cub) wake-up in the flat we were renting.
So, we decided to take the first train out of Marseille in the direction we were heading the next morning because it was going to be a loooonnnnggg day filled with many rides and as we were entering Italy and as we know from past experiences, many ‘interesting’ timing issues that accompany train riding in Italy. Having been down that track many a times, we knew it would be best to grab the first train out of Marseille, built in some buffer time, because as always there was no telling what kind of adventure we would encounter, and boy did we ever. Funny thing about this trip planning, is that we were going about half the distance from a few days earlier (Brussels, Belgium all the way down through the continent of Europe to Marseille, France) and it was going to take about twice the time.
So, as we sat on the train at the platform that was supposed to pull out of the station at 0630, Cierra asked me what time it was. Looking at my watch, I shrugged 0700. Wow, we haven’t even started yet and we are already 30 minutes behind schedule. That’s o.k., we built in a lot of buffer time between change overs as we expected this to happen, but this was not a good start to the day. Finally, as we began our trip to Nice, we quickly realized that the train was going slower than it should have (although the trip along the southern coast of France and the Mediterranean was as beautiful as I remembered it from more than 5 years ago). However, at one point, I saw an old lady in a grey and pink jump suit running faster than the train, is that even possible I asked myself? Looking at my watch (again), I realized we were not going to make the first change in Nice. I had a talk with the “ticket man” (as the kids call him) and he called “the boss” and confirmed that they would hold the train, just for us in Nice. Well that worked out…or did it?
So, we coasted into Nice about an hour later than planned but only 5 mins late for our next departure time (remember that good ol’ buffer time built in), and were joyous to see that our next train to Ventigmilla, Italy was the next track over. What we were not joyous to see is that it was an Intercity train and because it was held for us for those extra 10 minutes, it was now filled to maximum capacity. We couldn’t even get on in a few carriages and finally somehow managed to squeeze us, the kids, our backpacks and the strollers into a cart….standing (squished standing that it is) room only. I laughed as the train pulled out of the station thinking oh my goodness, what we would have done with Big Red in this situation…wicked laugh in my head…left her on the platform, that’s what. And then cried at the thought of riding for 45 minutes on this train ride through the French Riviera and into Italy. The 45 minutes quickly…or slowly in reality…turned into 1.5 hours because at every stop, more people kept getting on and pushing to fill the carriage. For the most part people were very friendly, but we did have a few of your “I’m too rich too ride a train” folks, that seemed angry at the situation and mad that there was nowhere to go. There were a few folks jawing for us (as in the Weatherly Travels Tribe) to move so they could get by in the aisle. I looked at us, the kids, the backpacks, and the other 10 people squished against me and said “Buon Fortuna” (good luck in Italian) and laughed as did all those around me. The rich folk angrily had to settle for standing with us lower plebes in the entry way. Luckily, there was a very nice older gentleman who spoke French and another older gentleman who spoke Italian, who had a friendly conversation of practicing one another’s languages. I proceeded to get in the middle of and practice both! They loved the kids. In my head I was counting down the stops to Monte Carlo, because I knew a ton of people were going to get off there. And sure enough, as we rolled into the Monte Carlo train station, you would have thought the train had indigestion, because it threw up a sea of common and rich folk alike onto the platform. Take that Monte Carlo, good riddance. Ah, we could breathe now and….yep….as I’m sure you guessed it, crossed the border into Italy and arrived at Ventigmilla….30 minutes past our planned arrival time and missed our connection.
So, we filed into the ticket area with the other hundreds of people that missed their connections from our and other trains and proceeded to get new directions for Genova. Ah….welcome to Italy, crazy, yes, but we love it and can never get enough! Come to find out, we were in luck. Because so many people missed the train we were supposed to be on and it was a reserved line, they pulled out a train especially for us and this trip. Like cows getting ready for the slaughter, we mooooed our way onto the platform and entered our 3rdand hopefully last train for the day. I found it quite comical to listen to an argument between train workers as the French blamed the Italians and the Italians blamed the French. As we sat and waited (about 30 mins) for the train to pull out of the station, we noticed some commotion going on from a large group of tourists standing on the platform talking to a few of the train station employees. I went to check it out of course, nothing better to do at that time except sit and wait. Come to find out, they were tourists, still confused from missed train connections (mostly American mind you) going every which kind of way, to Milan, Genova, Cinque Terra, Firenze, Roma…you name it. Not one of them spoke Italian and none of the train station employees spoke English. So what do you think I did?
So, you better believe it, I jumped right in to translate and help out! What better way to practice my Italian, do a good deed, and besides…there was nothing else better to do at that time except sit, watch and laugh. It was so much fun! I seriously got about 50+ tourists going in the right directions, laughs and high fives from the train station employees and a big hug from one old lady that in a southern draw said, “Oh my god, I don’t know what we would have done without you”. I laughed, well in your case mam, you would have ended up about 5 hours in the wrong direction! The tourists piled into the train and we finally coasted into Genova, Italy (a few hours later than we were supposed to mind you). On the last train ride, all went well except for Sienna turning into a banshee and then thankfully passing out early into the trip and Mylan saying he had to go poop every 15 minutes, then turning into a human tornado, and then finally passing out. Wait a tick, let’s backtrack, about that poop…
So, Mylan kept saying he had to go poop, and I had to keep taking him to the bathroom. This trip was not easy mind you. I took this time to explain the train potty ground rules to Mylan for Italy, these are bonus rules on top of normal train potty rules and common courtesy practices. 1) there’s not a WC (bathroom) on every train so you have to walk through multiple cars at times to get to one, 2) there might not be TP (toilet paper) sometimes (we always pack spares) and finally and most importantly 3) you CANNOT pee or poop when the train is stopped at the station. I’m explaining these ground rules of course on our first trip as we move through carriages, around gigantic pieces of luggage and over/under sleeping passengers and head-bobbing teenagers. As I’m explaining the most important rule #3 and we are making our way into the WC, Mylan looks up and says…but why daddy! I nod to the toilet and the look on his little face was priceless as he peered into the bowl…oh he exclaims…it falls right on the track.
So, on the first try, nothing, we go back. On the second try, nothing we go back. On the third try, nothing, we go back. On the Nth try (I don’t even remember how many times at this point), Mylan is holding his butt and saying he has to poop bad. Cierra is laughing at me, because it’s “my turn” for the potty. Dude, I say to Myaln, come on buddy, we’ve been back there a million times, it’s a long walk, you have to go. Ok daddy. We make our way back there…again…he gets settled in and about 5 minutes later, he makes a few faces and then an “Uh-oh” face as the train slowly coast into one of the stations…plop…yep, you guessed it…plop…right on the track, right in front of the platform, Rule #3 shattered on his first attempt! I’m not sure if it was the open air look down on a fast speeding train that gave him stage fright, if he was going through all the new rules daddy laid on him in his head, or if he had too much cheese the night before, but went it finally came, it came fast and at exactly the wrong time. Got to love style! Nice job little man!
I never wanted to kiss the ground so bad when we finally arrived in Genova (not on a train track of course). We broke out the map on our Iphones. I showed the map to a local, got my bearings, got my sense of direction and was ready to embark on the 20 mins hike to our boatel (boat hotel) that we rented via Airbnb for the evening in the Marina Porto Antico. I looked at the kids, our stuff and then the look on Cierra’s face. Yeah, maybe next time. I whistled for a cab, took the easy road and 10 minutes later we were standing in front of our home for the next few days. Our host, Michael was gracious and the ship was amazing (post coming soon). We happily threw our stuff into our bunks, tiredly toured the harbor for an hour, let the kids wear themselves out on a ‘jumpy house’ and then back home to fall asleep on the gently rocking waves of the Mediterranean! A well-deserved rest, for a long and travel weary day!
Travel Tip: For early morning next day train rides, dress the kids in comfortable clothing that they can sleep in and wear the next day, e.g. jogging suit/t-shirt vice pj’s to cut down on the much needed “get the kids ready” time in the morning.