A note about traveling in Sicily in off-season: At times, it’s not easy. Trains are less frequent and with fewer direct routes.
A note about traveling with my husband: I have given him the loving nickname “Doomsday” (or “Doomy” for short) for a very good reason. He often believes that anything that can go wrong probably will, which means we arrive everywhere extremely early just in case of unexpected traffic jams or long line-ups. Which also means, even though the Eurail.com planning website says we have 45 minutes to make our connection across town in Palermo, we plan to take the earlier train which gives us a 3 hour layover, just in case….
7:00am – Alarm went off. My mood was immediately foul, as I was pretty sure that I didn’t get to sleep until sometime in the 3s thanks to noise outside, an uncomfortable bed, and a constant need to blow my nose.
7:40am – Bags strapped on and we begin our walk to the train station. I was cursing the unreliability of the local buses of Catania. Head down, feet moving, I surged on.
8:08am – We arrived at the train station. My left arm was numb and about ready to fall off – we’ve already admitted that we are not the most efficient packers, and a few consecutive cross-town walks were proving that point. Pete breezed through ticketing to reserve our first class seat for the first leg of our trip. Nearly a half-hour to kill before the train leaves, so glad we were up so early, Doomy!
8:43am – Train left exactly on time. Headphones in, I remind Pete that this is my “do not disturb” time because I am desperately in need of a nap.
8:48am – Pete shakes my leg, causing my eyes to pop open: “Look! Mount Etna!” He clearly forgot my message/warning from five minutes previous, and also that we were walking on Mount Etna the previous day. I know what she looks like. Grumble.
9:31am – Eyes popped back open with a jolt in the train, gorgeous green fields and fluffy clouds just outside my window. Pretty!
10:05am – Arrived in Messina. Found a table in a cafe and finally had breakfast. Proceeded to enter into a card battle of Shithead, and came to a 2-2 draw before having to get ready for the four hour train to Palermo.
Also were approached by a nice Irish couple and exchanged information and maps as we were heading in opposite directions.
11:10am – Shithead battle resolved on the train. I won, Pete is the Shithead! For some reason he got upset when I adopt this as his new nickname.
12:23pm – Someone gets on with a large bag of fresh basil – the scent overpowers the train (and the not-so-pleasant smelling fellow sitting behind me). Yum!
1:01pm – Sleep evaded me, and so I settled into a series of games on my iPod, all of my latest obsession – Ticket To Ride. The point of the game is to get points by building many and long train routes across North America. See? I told you I was a train nerd.
2:00pm – A horde of people get on at the Cefalu stop, there is standing room only. Any hope of sleeping or getting work done is lost. The train is hot and noisy.
3:15pm – Train arrives in Palermo and we find a bus to take us to the north train station. First impressions of Palermo are very good, a definite step up from Catania. But what is with all the teenage boys with spiked hair, tight jeans, and massive stud earrings? Did our train time warp back to the 80s?
3:45pm – Right bus, wrong bus stop – oops! Thankfully a passenger guessed where we wanted to go and suggested we get off at the next one. Pete commented: “That was easy. Look at the time! We probably would have made the earlier connection if we had planned for it.” Thanks, Doomy.
5:00pm – Almost two hours still until the next train. Espresso helped keep our eyelids open, but delirium definitely started to set in at this point.
5:45pm – Deli sandwiches for an early dinner before getting on our last train. Delicious! Haven’t had a bad meal in Italy yet.
6:15pm – To the platform early for Pete to take some pictures of the train.
6:40pm – Train took off, headphones were in. There was some dozing, some head-bobbing, some iPod-game-playin’. Scenery was reduced to random spots of light against almost total darkness. My back was sore and I felt icky. I needed a shower, and a bed. Time was ticking by oh-so-slowly.
8:35pm – FINALLY! We arrived! We wearily lugged our heavy bags off the train and made the slow walk down the platform. From out of nowhere, I heard my name called, and turned to find the owner of our B&B waiting for us with a car. This was completely unexpected, and such a welcome surprise, I could have hugged her.
It was a long day, but our stay in Trapani was off to a tremendous start with this generous act of hospitality. And as it always is when arriving in a new destination, the excitement of discovery was creeping in again. But that would have to wait until morning.
I’m going to have to side with Doomy here. I’m always getting us places way too early, and my wife has about the same reaction as you. Fortunately she hasn’t clued in to the whole nickname thing yet. At least not to my face.
That was a fantastic thing for your B&B owner to do for you guys. Wonderful service. I hope the rest of your stay is just as good.
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Thanks Steve, I think maybe I should have a little chat with your wife! Or send you and Pete on a holiday, you can show up everywhere together two hours early and enjoy waiting instead of dealing with our grumpiness! 🙂
Hilariously told story! Sooo you’re saying that the fur collar thing is finally over (“what is with all the teenage boys with spiked hair, tight jeans, and massive stud earrings? Did our train time warp back to the 80s?”)?
I got a sleeper compartment on an Italian train one time, thinking it would be luxurious. Our compartment’s beds wouldn’t fold down, then we learned that we and several other people had all boarded the “wrong” train car #16. We hectically moved our giant luggage to the train car next tour ours (#12 as it turned out) during the next stop, only to discover the hallways packed. Immobilized, we stood for another 45 minutes (this was around 1am) then ran (extremely heavy luggage included—like 10 bottles of wine, totally our fault) to the right car #16. We got to our compartment, put our bags in the overhead compartments, then were promptly told that this car was out of service. Nearly breaking my back moving our bags for the one-hundredth-smillionth time, we were crammed in a compartment with two older Italians who were very unhappy to be woken at 2am. They began their verbose morning discussion around 7am I believe. And what luxury, I thought…
There was a fur collar “thing”? Oh my, perhaps the massive stud earrings are a step up! Oh wow – that was quite the train experience for you!! We’ve never done a sleeper train (we LOVE the scenery too much during the day!) and I’ve always wondered what they would be like.
Ticket to Ride!!!! We should have played it when we met.. big fans here too. We played it tons when we lived in Germany, there it was called Zug um Zug!
Zug um Zug!! Haha, that’s what I am calling it from now on! It is a German game, is it not? Same as our other favorite (Settlers of Catan!) You Germans know how to make good board games! 🙂
It often becomes difficult to travel when we cant get enough sleep, we feel tired on account of being constantly on the move… That delirium shot is truly fabulous, and what a name Doomy… Its kind of cute!! Wish you and your family a very Happy New Year:)
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Thanks Arti, happy new year to you as well! Pete doesn’t like the nickname Doomy for some reason, I can’t understand. 🙂
I live in Milan! I want to warm you that public transportation where you are is kind of slow and sometimes big strikes occur and block traffic all day long! Good Luck!
P.s. I’m glad you haven’t had a bad meal yet!
Thank you, but unfortunately we never made it to Milan. 🙁 Next time!
Now, if you were Mrs Jason, no way would she have been moaning about Italian boys with spiky hair and tight jeans in Palermo.
in fact, I’d have had trouble getting her on the train again!
We’re enjoying your blogs about Italy – love your style. Makes me laugh! We’re thinking of “doing Italy” this coming spring, so will be following you with great interest. Hoping you don’t actually “kill” Doomy one of these posts! Nothing like traveling as a couple to provoke some great arguments, misunderstandings and more than a few heavy “Sighs”.
Hmm, I can’t understand why Pete doesn’t love your nicknames for him! 😉
Also, I’ll have to check out that train game! Will be perfect, since I’m planning my own Eurail adventure next summer!
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Depending on whether I’m viewing this half empty or half full these kinds of days are either character builders or flat our torture chamber sessions 😛
Oooooo, I like Pete even more now. I also believe in planing for worst case scenarios. It drive my wife nuts.
It also drives my boss nuts, but he does admit it makes me good at what I do.
You boys and your ridiculous need to be everywhere early…. 😛
Ugh, that’s the worst; when you wake up very early and you are immediately in a horrible mood and you know it is going to be a loooooong day.
Maria D. recently posted..The Not So Magical Florida Wildlife
Yeah, and there’s nothing I could really do about it but suck it up and travel! Thank goodness for iPod games. 🙂
I love how you post sleeping photos of Dalene, that is one thing you will never see on my site.
I think you should set up your tripod and do a time lapse. 🙂
Haha…great narration. Train rides can and do get quite boring after a while…it’s why I prefer a bus 🙂
Oh no, I would take the train ANY DAY over a bus. There are so many more interesting things to see (rather then just the seat back in front of you!) Way more comfortable and easy to move around. 🙂
Ugh! I have had some serious long travel days … they’re the worst! But, they are also an adventure! 🙂
DTravelsRound recently posted..Up-close with elephants: a photo essay of life with an Elephant Nature Park herd
They are always an adventure is right! We have done much longer as well (mostly Argentinian buses!) but this one was our longest on train. 🙂
wow a 12- hour trip
Zablon Mukuba recently posted..Volunteering abroad and Universities
I had one of those “OH GOD WHEN WILL THIS END?!” bus rides the other day where it seems as though you slip into a time warp and everything takes forever.
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Those long days are soooo tiring. It is one of the big reasons I like to stay in a place at least a week, so I can rest up and enjoy before doing it all over again.
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That is our preferred method to – actually, a week is often too short! Good thing we have some long stays coming up ahead of us.
Nothing is worse than waiting for a train or plane feeling like you can’t stay awake! God bless that nice B&B owner for arriving to pick you up — so sweet!
She was amazing for picking us up, and for the awesome stay we had there. We are very happy to now call her a friend!