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Waking up on the TrenHotel - page 2
By Lisa Drittenbas

Usually I have no trouble sleeping on trains. But no one warned me of a simple fact: Instead of a gentle rocking motion achieved from sitting face forward in a seat, in the sleeper cabin you lay perpendicular to the tracks. The Elipsos delivers a robust, slow, side-to side, foot-to-head, chugging and shaking similar to being on a charter fishing boat in 8 foot ocean swells. It finally did even out and we picked up speed once we entered France (the rails are a different size in Spain). But before that, I was in severe danger of motion sickness. Suffering in my 42 degree Celsius room, with all my clothes on and afraid to approach the semi-hostile staff, let’s not call this a “hotel”. Let’s call it: “Why did I pay so much money for this damn uncomfortable night train!”

RailPasses from RailEurope:

The moral of the story: pay €60 less and get the fully reclining seat. At least you can watch the scenery flying by in a forward position and you'll probably have more room than your tiny sweat lodge on rails.

After arriving to Paris, I booked my Paris-Zürich train ticket with the help of an EU-residing, French-speaking friend. That‘s when we discovered the website would only accept a French credit card. “No problem,” he said, “We'll use my Carte Bleue and you give me the cash.” OK! Great...but my limited French noticed words to the effect of, " must present this same credit card in order to retrieve your ticket at the train station…" It was true and a big hassle. Luckily my friend was going to the same station I was, but neither of us could figure out how to get the ticket from the machines and he almost missed his train to work.

The second part of my trip was a bit closer to what I had imagined. I took the TGV. The TGV is rail travel for civilized people. I sipped my €5 espresso while going 200 miles-per-hour in a nightclub-lit cafe car with people wearing stylish glasses and gazed out the window at the snow-sprinkled landscape. Sighing, I picked up a free copy of the train's glossy magazine and perused the detailed maps and travelogues (all in French, which I barely understand). So when I tired of pretending to read it, I walked up to the observation car where people were connected to their laptops at special little seats meant for charging your electronic devices. I marveled at the motion sensors that noiselessly slid open the sleek glass doors connecting each car. And I lingered in the clean, spaciously-built toilets with nothing sticky on the floor. Yes, this is what I had in mind.

The TGV only goes so far, so once we hit Switzerland I had to change to a slower, local train to Zürich. But even this was lovely, as I sat in my spacious seat and dozed just long enough to wake up to the conductor asking me for €25 for the last leg of my journey from Zürich to St. Gallen. "25 euros? The controller said it would be 5 euros!" "Oh, no,” replied the very cute, curly-haired conductor. “You are in Switzerland now. Everything is very expensive."

My train journey ended there and wound its way back to Basel for an EasyJet flight to Istanbul. EasyJet is pretty easy, but it's not travel by train, not even close.

Photo Right - The lovely, winter landscape I was looking for.

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