My 49 Hour Eurail Adventure

Some posts on this site contain affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these links, I may earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you!). Read the full disclosure policy here.

Florence, Italy

14 months in Latin America slapped the type A planner out of me. I no longer travel with calendars and always show up and just figure things out. That’s cool in Latin America because that’s how they roll.

It is not this way in Europe.

So when I was invited to an event in Florence I thought sure, I’ll just hop on the Eurail today and before I know it I’ll be riding the Italian train directly to Florence

Wrong.

You see I am also terrible at geography and instead of zipping over to Italy I did not realize I’d need to go UP through Spain, UP AGAIN to France then OVER to Italy. I am a bit of a European rail dummy.

Sure being carefree can be great, but not always. When you don’t plan ahead here is how things work out:

Day 1

4pm: Arrive at train station with no plan as to how to get to Florence despite Lily Leung showing me how to use apps to plan it out. No worries I’ll do it when I get there.

4:01pm: Find out there’s no wifi.

4:10pm: Folks in Seville have no idea how to get to Florence either but promise me that when I get to Madrid, just take the subway to the other train station across the city and they’ll know.

9:45pm: Arrive in Madrid, successfully make my way to Chamartin station. Discover they have no idea either and my ticket agent wins the award for the rudest person I met.

Despite ordering in Spanish, when I don’t understand her mumble of cash or credit card she looks at me in exasperation. Knowing that I have a 30 hour ride afterwards I tell her in Spanish that she is very helpful.

10:00pm: have not eaten dinner yet and nothing is open but Burger King. It tastes good but makes me hate myself.

11:00pm: Discover that even though overnight train to Barcelona had nearly an empty car Ms.Sunshine Ticket Agent booked me my seat next to a random guy who looked like he was counting on laying across both seats. He was grateful when I moved to another seat.

 

Day 2

7:00am: Arrive in Barcelona. Staff is so helpful and prints off an itinerary for me and books the first 3 trains. I find $10 tropical fruit salad and lentils and rice for lunch.

10:42: Arrive in Figueres Vilafant with an easy transfer to the other side of the track for the next train

1:35pm: Arrive in Nimes. Made the same mistake of taking train at rush hour without booking in advance and had to pay for ticket. That would have been okay but then also had to pay fifty cents to pee – they already got fifty euro out if me and they can’t throw in a free bathroom pass??

I also notice my 10 years of French is in hibernation answering in Spanish.

3:41pm: Arrive in Valence. Started confusing my Spanish and French again but laughed when the girl at the cafe snorted like a pig to tell me the sandwich I was looking at was pork.

6:15pm: It’s like the amazing race. I arrive in Chambery-Challes-E. Train was late and had only five minutes to find mine. I was sweaty and panicky and just as I turned the corner in the wrong direction a commuter stopped me and turned me around I would have missed that fifty Euro train without him.

9:25pm: I did not realize that the train schedule in Italy is just a rough approximation. I arrive in Porto Susa half an hour late. I hoped I could still make the reservations for the Italian portion of my journey but ticket office is closed.

So basically I paid fifty euro for nothing and should have stayed overnight in that other town.  I was stuck there for the night so I whipped out my kindle to see if I could find a close hostel for the night.

Oh right I forgot to mention that I didn’t realize I was in Torino I thought I was in Milan. When I exited the Porta Susa station I saw two hotels referencing Milan which was also why none of the hostel directions made sense.

Oh did I also mention that I don’t have any money on me?

Finally I put technology aside and asked a waiter for hostel. Apparently the only place in the world where the train station area is nice and expensive is Torino. He did ask others in the restaurant and they directed me toward a one star hotel.

It’s hard to call things in Europe dingy because everything is old here but my hotel room was definitely on the sad side. I managed to get the old woman who did not speak English but did speak broken Spanish to ask her son to knock the price down and we finally agreed on 45 euro for a room that had a shower but no toilet.

Where do people pee? In the shower?

The next morning I find out that there is a direct train to Florence avoiding 2 more connections so I spend the day in Turin.  A pleasant surprise was my Eurail pass qualified me for first class on the nicest train yet. Very sleek and while I was excited about the juice and cookie then they gave me a chocolate.

I said I always wanted a big European rail adventure and while these last 49 hours haven’t been perfect they have certainly been adventurous.

My Advice? Don’t do what I did. Here’s a great Eurotrip guide from Marcela that will help you avoid my mistakes.

 

Join the Conversation

  1. What a funny story: and knowing that you can find cheap flights in Europe for less than 50 euros.

    I totally understand the mixing up French and Spanish. I still understand ‘everything’ in French but I don’t seem to be able to speak it, or I have to think like 5 minutes about every word.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I do love how they have cheap flights in Europe but I love the train so much more, you don’t have to drive outside a city to get to the airport or check in an hour early and then when you arrive you are in the city centre. I’d always choose train over plane.

  2. I love travelling by train but that’s a bit much even for me! I don’t know if you’ve heard of it but the http://www.seat61.com website is really useful for planning train travel around Europe (though more so when you have internet connection!)

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Yes I love that site. You know it was really just a spur of the moment decision to leave that day. I am so accustomed to the ways in South America where you just show up and figure it out that I had no idea I’d be all over the place.

      That said, as much as it was a pain to change trains every couple hours I really enjoyed seeing how different the trains were. It was like my own little Amazing Race complete with running around like a fool 🙂

  3. I could have easily done this. I can’t plan and I hate planning.

    I just live on impulse..whatever happens happens. Deal with it later.

    Not always the best way to go about things, I know.

    I’ve learned to deal with the frustrating repercussions that can arise.

    – Off topic a little bit.

    I saw a shirt a couple of days ago that made me laugh as well as think of your blog.

    This dude was wearing a shirt that said:

    “Bacon is Meat Candy”

    I thought it was hilarious.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I have that shirt! I really need to start an online store for this site, the bacon shirts are hilarious. People always laugh at this Parts of the Pig shirt.

      1. Haha! That’s awesome. I should have known.

        Love the Pig Butchering Guide…Good stuff!

  4. Stephanie - The Travel Chica says:

    You certainly deserved first class at the end of that trip.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      49 hours normally wouldn’t be so bad, I like our 20 hour South American bus rides but because I didn’t plan I ended up changing trains every two hours which meant running around like a fool.

      Oh well, at least it’s a good story.

  5. That’s a great adventure. I will do this one in june maybe. I want to go with the european rail to some countries, especially in the East of Europe…
    But I didn’t know that we could get first class with this kind of ticket, that’s a great surprise

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      The Eurail is interesting because each country is different, and so are the trains. But in a few countries first class is the default for the pass. It was a bit unfortunate it was Day 3 and so sweaty and gross compared to the other passengers.

  6. Seattle Dredge says:

    Haha, I love that the girl snorted like a pig!

    And you can’t hate yourself about eating at Burger King–there’s something about the fast food in Spain that is just.. Delicious! Haha 😀

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      To be fair it was the only thing open. I don’t mind eating fast food in many places as comfort food but there was something so wrong about it in Spain.

  7. What an adventure is right. I still laugh (sorry) when you told us the story the first time and you thought you were in Milan and were in Torino.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I know, you would think someone who has traveled so much wouldn’t show up at night in some random city without cash or an idea of where to get a hotel.

      Oh and my Kindle power was also about to die. I am so well prepared.

  8. Peeing in the shower works in theory…but what about #2!?

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I never thought of that!

  9. That sounds really unpleasant, minus the chocolate. That part sounds nice.

  10. Jools Stone says:

    I’m happy to confirm that No.2s work just as well in the shower too, though I admit I am having a little trouble finding more couchsurfing hosts for my next stay…

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Oh Jools, that was too far!

  11. DTravelsRound says:

    Oh LORD that sounds exhausting!! And frustrating. But, that is also what I love about traveling in Europe. It’s nearly impossible to make plans, things are never quite as they seem, and, when all else fails, you end up having a shower and no toilet. Quite the adventure. 🙂

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I knew that I would be in for a long day, or maybe an overnight but I had no idea it would be 3 days.

  12. Hang on a sec – I didn’t know you could book accommodation on a kindle?! And there I was feeling slightly smug as I read this until I got to that part 😉

  13. See, this is great story material, despite the pain of enduring it. You had to pay to pee there? It is one of the things I hate in South America, and to know some places still apply it there…

  14. This is awful, but almost to the point of being hilarious–just because I have totally been there! I remember looking at a map and just shaking my head because the train routes were anything BUT direct. Glad you finally made it–and yes, you have to be pretty type-A to travel successfully on Eurail! (Which I am–precisely why I’m not sure if I’d be able to handle South America!)

  15. Absolutely crazy! Sounds really stressful, but I’m glad you made it out ok! (BTW I think Andy once had a hotel with no toilet in Italy.)

    1. Toilet it had, but no shower. Nor one in the hotel that I could use. I finally got them to change rooms for one with a shower, but a lousy view.

      I love the long train journeys in Europe. I usually DO plan them out ahead of time. That is just how things are done in Germany and it is seeping in.

  16. Camels & Chocolate says:

    I don’t think this makes you a “dummy” at all–train travel in Spain is not like it is elsewhere in Europe! I wrote my first guidebook in Spain, and MTV gave me a rail pass to use in-country throughout the duration of my employment. Well, I was primarily in Basque Country and Navarra, and it was all local trains, none of the Eurail lines, so I never so much as got to use my pass!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I actually really liked Renfe, the trains are modern, go 300km and they give free headphones. France was nice but the staff was not the most pleasant. But I had heard afterwards that Italian trains are the worst and never on time.

  17. Now that’s a journey and a half! Enjoy Florence 🙂

  18. Oh God. 49 hours. And I thoughy my 30-hour train ride from Lisbon to Paris was bad…LOL! Makes for a great story, though 🙂

  19. Oh God. 49 hours. And I thought my 30-hour train ride from Lisbon to Paris was bad…LOL! Makes for a great story, though 🙂

  20. That’s an amazing journey. I think the cookie and chocolate at the end make it all worth it 😉

  21. Andi of My Beautiful Adventures says:

    What an adventure!!!

  22. Well told! I had that problem with no wifi in Sevilla airport when Ryanair refused to allow me to board because THEY had mistakenly given me a discount to which I wasn’t entitled apparently. So air travel is also fraught!

    And France once I had a room with a shower and no loo BUT …. a bidet! Go figure! Or maybe not!

  23. SO funny that you posted this. I was just doing some research on this Eurail and I was thinking wow this is so expensive and hardly seems worth it. I then found Ryan Air. SO CHEAP and to fly too!! Needless to say, I will not be buying the Eurail and I will be sticking to an airline that drops you off about 30 minutes outside all the main cities. Those tend to be the coolest anyhow. Great story…. can’t wait to travel!:)

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Ryanair and the other carriers are cheaper but I really do try to take rail as much as possible because it minimizes the environmental impact.

    2. Beware Ryanair! They have a terrible reputation in Europe. In my experience and that of too many friends and colleagues to count the bad reputation is totally justified. I’m a very tolerant traveller, don’t mind delays (gives me chance to read or whatever) but Ryanair are truly the pits and their staff are rude.

      1. Ayngelina Author says:

        I made the mistake of picking Ryannair over EasyJet because it was $5 cheaper but wow what a world of difference in customer service.

  24. I’m all about just showing up and you know, hoping for the best.

    It really sucks that silly things like train schedules are not conducive to this.

  25. I had a similar experience many years ago hopping on a train without a plan in Seville intending to make my way to Italy via Nice.

    My journey also was much longer than expected, plus I had to wait in the terminal 16 hours in Seville just to get a seat on a train because everyone in Seville was headed to Madrid for a big football game.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Oh wow, I guess we are so stubborn we have to learn the hard way.

  26. Still beats travelling by train in the UK (well London and the South East at least).

  27. I recently tried to make a similar trip from Bilbao to Pompeii. I finally gave up trying to book it all together and just went from Bilbao to Hendaye on the bus, then French train via Toulon to Ventimiglia in Italy to Naples to Pompeii. It turned out to be much cheaper to book it that way, too.

  28. Hotel room without toilet? You probably were very happy to leave this hotel in the morning 🙂

  29. Yikes, that’s one long adventure!! But at least it all worked out in the end, right?

  30. I think I would have peed all over the bathroom just to spite the fact there was no toilet and they charged me that much.

  31. Yikes! Yeah, the train system in Europe can be really awesome and efficient, but it can also be really confusing. You definitely have to plan in advance. But I have heard that things are totally the opposite in Latin America, so I can see how that would be a really stark contrast!

  32. I’m not the brightest when it comes to Geography either. I’ve actually hopped on the wrong go train and not realized until 4 stops later… almost to Oakville.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I once missed the train to Kitchener so I hopped on a bus to Hamilton thinking it was close.

  33. This post reminded me a lot of a trip I took with a friend, backpacking europe in 2005. We had a eurail pass and we were determined to get the most out of it. This usually involved taking night trains whenever possible (to save money on accommodation) and covering vast distances to feel like we were getting our money’s worth. We were similarly ignorant about geography and train schedules. Italy turned into a huge booze fest as the wine was so cheap and we were constantly trying to force ourselves to pass out just to deal with the craziness of the trains. All in all, a lot of fun, but don’t think I would ever do it again 😉

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      That may have worked if I had enough time. Unfortunately I was switching trains every 2 hours. I would have loved one long train ride, I’m accustomed to long rides in South America, but I couldn’t have a drink as I need to dash out the doors and catch the next train.

  34. Wow, definitely a feat to get there! I’ve been mixing up my French and Spanish here too. Haha. It was worse when I met two French guys who were greeting me in Spanish every morning. That confused my poor brain!

    ‘Ms.Sunshine Ticket Agent’ – Hahahahahahaha!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Close
© Copyright 2021. Bacon Is Magic. All rights reserved
Close