6 notes on the train

This is the fourth and final installment of a week-long series about travel.

A major thing I miss about Europe is being able to get on a train and go wherever I want. That kind of freedom is pretty exhilarating.

To celebrate my love of European mass transit, here are my favorite (or at least most memorable) train rides.

1. My best friend and I missed the morning train to Amsterdam from Paris. For the afternoon train, we had to take first-class seats on the way to a connection in Brussels. My first experience with first-class seats was awesome: roomy seats, a lunch with oranges, a sandwich and cookies, attentive staff. That was the life … for a couple of hours.

2. We took an overnight train from Rome to Nice. There were three of us in the compartment: my friend and me, and an older (quite older) French lady. As I was making my bed with the sheets and blanket, she tsk’d me, took the stuff and made my bed herself, muttering in French under her breath. Merci!

3. In March 2007 I took the train from Reading to Wales to visit a friend for a weekend. The ride home on Sunday night was probably one of the most quiet and peaceful I had ever had; riding through the Welsh and English countryside, one of only two or three people in the car, reading “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.” Ahhh.

4. We caught an early morning train from Vienna to Salzburg. There were practically no people onboard. We had a six-person cabin to ourselves and were able to stretch out. I remember snoozing and my friend woke me up and told me to look out the window. The train was going through the Alps. It remains one of the most beautiful and jarring (“Wow, we’re in the Alps!”) things I have ever seen.

5. German trains in general are simply awesome. They are clean, sleek, on time and just great. My first ride on a German train involved sitting on my duffel bag outside the bathroom on a train from Amsterdam to Munich. It was still one of the more comfortable, pleasant rides of the trip.

6. Our last train ride of the trip was an overnight ride form Madrid to Lisbon. My friend and I were in separate sleeping cabins. I woke up early — probably about 5 a.m. or so — and couldn’t go back to sleep. I got up and wandered through the train and ended up in the dining car. I had only to sit down and the server had a croissant, a fruit bowl, juice, coffee and a little piece of bacon in front of me. And I ate all of it, even the kiwi, which I usually don’t care for. There’s something surreal about having breakfast on a train before the sun comes up.

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