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I was in Barcelona over the winter holidays and got the notion to take a romantic train journey. Actually the notion began in a San Francisco pub several weeks earlier. My Irish bartender friend rolled her eyes at me. “You want to spend 15 hours on a train? Oh God, I couldn’t take it! Why don’tya just fly?” Well, because, I said. Train travel is relaxing. You can see the countryside. Meet interesting people. There’s time to read, to doze, to sip cappuccino on the observation deck. No hassles from airport security. She looked at me blankly. “I might meet someone cute.” I said finally. “Oh, now that’s a reason!” she chirped.

Cramped quarters in the TrenHotel

…..With 10 minutes to go before departing Barcelona, I looked around my empty 4-person cabin and thought, “Great, I have it all to myself!” Then entered my first cabinmates: a pregnant woman yelling at her 20-month baby to get into the cabin so she could change her diaper. “Are you poopy?” She inquired. I wasn’t looking forward to finding out. The seats, before being made into their fold-out beds, are about 6 inches away from each other.

The train conductor came for our tickets and suggested the woman and baby sleep on the bottom bunk instead of the top, and, even though I had booked a bottom bunk, that I should trade with her. Confused, I asked, “But why can’t we both have the bottom bunks…?” She explained with irritation that one more woman was being picked up in Figueres. And then she left.“Work it out amongst yourselves,” she casually threw over her shoulder as she hurried away. Thanks.

….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 local train from Zurich to St. Gallen, Switzerland

“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.

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