Wednesday we had to take the train to Milan. Turns out we had to take three trains to Milan. Very nerve wracking trying to figure out when to get off and where to get back on. We didn't finish with trains until 3:00 p.m. or so, and then had to get a taxi to our hotel. We freshened up and went walking to look for something to eat. We ate at a Panini cafe'. I've noticed their meat is different than ours. Kind of stronger. After that we went to our hotel bar for wine and appetizer tasting. We went to bed early because we had a 9:50 a.m. flight. Had to get up at 5:30 a.m. UGH
(on the plane)
I didn't sleep well last night and this flight is 10 hours and 40 minutes and it's still hard to sleep.
-end of Journal entries-
Well here are the train tickets, and we couldn't understand them one bit! And 'train tickets' were covered in the paperwork Theresa gave us to read ahead of time. I did read it, but I didn't understand it then either.
And apparently that is not uncommon, because when I asked the cashier to explain, she said nary a word, and just printed this and handed it to me!
It gave us detailed information.
But I got to thinking....we took a taxi to the train station. I can't remember how much it cost, but then we took trains to Milan. 60 Euro each person. Total of 240 Euro for all of us, plus another taxi to our hotel, after we got to Milan. I'm thinking we could have hired a driver from Siena to Milan, like we did from Rome to Siena. That was 240Euro. But we wanted the train experience. I was excited about taking a train...
So here we all are in the first train station and Mom is asking everyone for change. Not for the restroom, mind you.
Oh no, for SLOT MACHINES. But they were in Italian and they were 2 Euro a pull, so she didn't play.
And here we are waiting on the train. There were only two or three tracks and they told us exactly where to go to catch our train. Very small train station.
Uh oh...once we got on the train and relaxed for a minute, we wondered...how do we know when to get off the train. There are several stops. Where is Empoli? Never heard of it. Because in one hour, we get off the train in Empoli and we have exactly 12 minutes before the next train leaves. So we have to get off, and on, in 12 minutes.
So I try to strike up a conversation with the young lady sitting beside me who speaks "survival English."
I'm trying to ask her about the ticket because I read the back of it, which I'm sure no one ever reads, and it says, "Tickets not including seat reservation must always be validated. Lack of validation can result in fines. For further information blah blah blah." So I ask the young lady beside me about that, because no one is validating anything. So when some man walked by she started talking Italian and he said something and she said something, and he took our tickets and punched a hole in them. Phew...didn't want a fine! Then I started to crochet, but only made a little flower because one hour, and we still didn't know where we were to get off the train. And when the helpful young lady beside me said, "I like" I gave it to her. Then this other lady sits down and immediately starts to untangle this yarn!
I bet she speaks English. "Is that wool?" I ask. "uummmm, noooo, ummmm....." No speak English at all. Crap. But then, the survivial English girl starts speaking to this lady in Italian and she is also getting off in Empoli and taking the next train to Firenze, so we are to follow her. Oh..My..Gosh. We got off the train, walked very very quickly down some steps, under the tracks, and back up steps on the other side and waited. I think we had about two minutes to spare. Got on that train and then got all nervous again because we had no one to ask where to get off. And here's the thing...there are signs. Like this one...
But unbeknownst to us, Firenze has two stops. The first stop did not say S.M. Novella after Firenze, and our itenerary paper that the train clerk gave us did, so we (Theresa and I) decided (on our own) that we would not get off there, but instead hope and pray that we would come to another Firenza stop that had S.M. Novella after it. PHEW! We did. And we had 20 minutes to get on our next train this time. ( I really wish we would have taken a car!)
The Firenze train station was bigger and had signs as though we were at the airport. We had 20 minutes to find out where the train to Milano Centrale was loading. It wasn't there yet. We waited.
Then when the train came, some nice ladies helped us with our luggage! I thought this must be the treatment you get with bigger stations. And since we had been a tad stressed I really didn't pay attention to who these people were, I just gave them my luggage. I'm an idiot. We're all idiots. We're all clueless train-riders in a foreign country trying to read a language we cannot read, get off and on trains without guidance, and then we hand our luggage to "gypsies?" Yup. But I didn't realize it. And when I went to find my assigned seat, some lady came to me begging. I said no. At that point I was tired, stressed, and tired of the begging. I even got irritated with her. What I did not know is that they were the young girls that just helped us with our luggage. Yup, I'm an idiot. I would have given them a dollar or two, I just did not know.....Then as we sat there we were afraid our luggage was not going to be there when we went to leave. Crap again. But, luckily, it was there. And on this last leg of the train rides, our assigned seats left Theresa somewhere off by herself. But I had an empty seat beside me, so I went and got her. And we got to relax the rest of this trip, two hours, because no more trains to get back on.
BUT OH MY GOSH! THIS is the train station in Milan. OH...MY...GOSH. IT IS HUGE.
And where...in thee hell...do we go to find a taxi? It's now around 3:00, we left around 9:30 that morning...maybe 9:00, I don't know, but I do know this....I'm tired of figuring out schedules. I just want our Hotel.
So we follow the crowd...luggage in tow.
And we discovered a shopping area, attached to the train station.
We keep walking with luggage in tow, until we find a sign that says taxi.
But we are not seeing anywhere to go to find a taxi. So Theresa and I went to ask these ladies that worked at a store, while Mom & Dad stayed with the luggage. They pointed and spoke a little broken English (Crap again) so we went in the direction they pointed. Well, there wasn't a taxi sign to be found. And Dad made some little comment about us not knowing where we are going.... And I lost it. And Mom & Theresa calmed us down!!! OMG! (I'm laughing now, but I sure wish we would have taken a car...although I would have always wondered how that romantic train ride would have been.) F.i.n.a.l.l.y. we find a taxi stand, drug our luggage across several lanes, waited while they tried to find a vehicle for four people and their luggage to take us to our hotel, less than ten minutes away!
We arrived at our hotel, I did not get a picture. I was just wanting to relax. Our rooms were very reasonably priced and VERY nice. Remember, this is the hotel that we discovered at the beginning of our trip that Theresa thought she reserved two rooms, two people per room. But she only reserved two rooms, one person per room, twin bed. Then when our hotel clerk at the other hotel tried calling this hotel to change our reservations, he couldn't get a hold of anyone. The number we had was not valid. WTH? We did not even tell Mom & Dad any of that stuff until later. Much later. But as I said, the rooms were EXCELLENT. The hotel was excellent.
So we freshened up and took off walking to find a place to eat. We didn't have any lunch except for our own snacks we brought with us on the train.
Milan had a real nice street with lots of restaurants and shops, real close to our hotel. We walked, ate, and went back to the hotel. We discovered a bar in our hotel that was having an appetizer tasting and since we didn't eat much, we had a glass of wine and some appetizers. While we were eating, we talked to Mom & Dad about what they wanted to do to get to the airport tomorrow morning. The train was the cheapest, and pretty quick, but ugh...to get back on a train. The bus was a little more expensive, but would take a little over an hour. The taxi, 100 Euro (too much) about an hour. Well, Dad said he would pay the taxi if we would do that rather than another train! THANKS DAD! I did NOT want to get on another bus or train. But I wasn't about to admit it at the time!
And that folks...is the Italy trip. Thanks for hanging in there with me through all of it. I know these posts were long and loaded with pictures, but many friends and relatives who don't usually read my blog have wanted to see the pics and hear about the trip, and this was the easiest way. Trust me, no one would want to go through all of the pictures I took. I think I took around 1300 pictures. Ridiculous, I know. But this was the trip of a lifetime.
I would like to tell you the one last thing that happened. It's funny now. It wasn't then.
And lucky for you I put my camera up when we got on the plane so I have no more pics.
When we landed at the Atlanta airport to switch planes, the employees were wonderful. They were standing there directing traffic, customs was quick, things were going smoothly. (I admitted to my sister that I forgot to list the bottle of wine on my customs list and she was real sure it'd be ok. Seriously.) We have never been to the Atlanta airport before. IT's HUGE. We had to take a train/tram, to concourse C and find gate 51 for our plane. We had an hour. Mom and Dad were following us. Dad even said, "get in front of me you know where you going." All I knew was Gate 51 Concourse C.
So we walk and walk until we find a tram/train
Theresa jumped on the tram, I jumped on the tram, Mom started to get on and the doors closed! OMG! WE LOST OUR PARENTS IN THE ATLANTA AIRPORT. We just spent 7 days in Italy riding buses, trains, taxis, and walking the crazy, curvy streets of Italy and WE LOSE OUR PARENTS IN THE ATLANTA AIRPORT! SHIT!
Theresa waited at the point that we were supposed to get off the tram. I went back to try to find them. I walked and walked and rode the tram back to the starting point, then finally asked a pilot who was leaning against the wall texting. He was wonderful. Helpful. And we walked the e n t i r e l e n g t h of c o n c o u r s e D & C looking for them, and having them paged. I was sweating. And then....as I was a few feet from gate 51, my phone rings. Some unusual number. It was Mom. She borrowed a phone from some lady and called me. There were waiting on us at the gate.
IT WAS A WONDERFUL TRIP. I'm ready to go back!