The Night Train from Nice
September 18, 2014
I never like to read those posts that say a blog is ending. Not that anyone reads this regularly or would notice. There are folks who drop in for a few minutes each week or so, but my entries have been so irregular that I can’t blame them for moving on. There does seem to be a large following in The Republic of Korea – I have hundreds of visits from Korea but I’ve never heard a peep from any of them. I expect it’s a bot, sweeping in and out for reasons I don’t want to imagine.
So I won’t say this is it, because there may be things from time to time that are worth taking note of. That said, I don’t think I’ll be around as often as before.
I wrote this the other day in response to an article I read about the end of Night Trains.
I was traveling solo, for lots of reasons, and arrived in Monaco in late August to visit a friend before continuing on to Viareggio.
There was a night train out of Nice and I went by in the late afternoon to buy a ticket for that night’s train. Jokingly, I asked the lone ticket agent to be certain to book me a cabin with a beautiful, dark-haired Italian girl. He chuckled, passed me my ticket, and I went out to dinner with my friend.
Later that night I returned to the station and waited for the train to Bologna. It was a warm summer night and I was looking forward to a holiday far away from my normal life and work. For some reason, when I entered the sleeper cabin I wasn’t shocked to see her sitting quietly, playing solitaire on her bed. But I was pleasantly surprised and not a little nervous.
I had been practicing my Italian for the weeks leading up to the trip but I was far from fluent. That night there were just the two of us in the sleeper cabin that could have easily accommodated four more people.
We played Briscola and Scopa – the only two Italian card games I knew. There was no romance that night. Like many young men, when confronted with the girl of our dreams, we behave ourselves. I’m glad I did because it made the memory of that night all the better.
But it wasn’t an uneventful night, although I managed to sleep through all the action.
I woke to her urgent whispering – telling me in rapid, anxious Italian that she had been robbed. At some point in the night, a thief or thieves had entered our car and stolen her bag. Mine was under my head, so hers was the easier pick.
We summoned the porter and started to search the train. All of this was taking place as the train was slowly approaching the station where she would get off to meet her parents and I would change to a train heading south. The porters hurried through the train because they knew they would lose any chance of apprehending the thief when the passengers started to disembark.
They found her bag, empty and wet, on the floor of the WC. We said goodbye there and she hurried off to meet her parents. I lingered on the platform for a time, casting a glance now and then for guilty looking characters, but mostly thinking about the young woman I had spent the evening with, someone I would likely never see again but would think of from time to time when the subject of night trains was raised.
Please don’t toss night trains on the slag heap of history. Modernity brings with it ever more efficient ways to speed us through the hours and days of our lives. I night train moves at another pace, closer to the earth, closer to the heart of travel as journey through time and mind.