One of the first articles I may write upon returning home is The Truth about Riding Eurail. (Working title, obviously.) Travel guides make it sound so painless. Streamlined websites appeal to the vacationer who assumes the rail travel must be equally streamlined. And it is, to a point. But there is so much they don't tell you.
Bringing me to the third quality it is good to possess as both a traveler and a writer—flexibility. Previous blog posts from Europe have discussed maintaining a sense of humor and being observant. Now, flexibility.
Originally, plans had us hopping a train from Barcelona to Geneva for a few days in Switzerland before Italy. Originally, until the guy at the ticket counter in Paris looked up from his ever-clicking computer and said, “non.” What do you mean, “Non”? We have Eurail passes. Good anywhere, anytime, right? That's what the posters say. The posters neglect to mention that those American passholders still have to make reservations, and sometimes making them several days in advance is clearly not enough. Attempting practically every city between the two as a way stop availed us nothing; the answer was still a firm, “Non.” No reservations possible. All trains full. Well, only one train going, so the one train was full. What to do?
Cancel inn reservations, point to a dot on the map in France between Spain and Italy, and say, “There. We're going there for two days instead.” And so we did. We found a little hotel that promised on the website it decorated its rooms and floors “like the five continents, so your stay will be in another universe.” Their décor was cute, if their geography woeful, and the price was definitely right. It wasn't what we had planed, but it was its own good experience, if we were willing to embrace it.
This we did, and a day in a hotel room doing absolutely nothing after the pace of Paris and Barcelona, then a day at the beach, proved a very needed blessing. Montreaux, Switzerland, another day. This, day, flexibility.