Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Toussaints #7: Getting Back Home

Our trip back from Rome to Grenoble was without a doubt the pinnacle of our insanity. I suppose that it was only appropriate that our most terrifying day fell on Halloween. Even before the trip I had something of a panic attack just looking at our return trip, I didn't think we would make all our connections from one place to another (there were a lot). At best I knew we'd come out of our "vacation" somewhere between exhausted and dead.

We woke up at 3:30 am to catch a shuttle to the airport, had some coffee, and flew to Milan. Chelsea had had some problems printing out her train ticket that we needed to get back to Grenoble, so we took a metro to the Milan SNCF office to get that, then we took another metro to the middle of nowhere to catch an 8.5 hour bus from Milan to Lyon. By that time we were very, very tired, after not only that early morning but also two weeks of little sleep and lots of travel. I had a little notebook where I made quick notes of where we had been and what we had done, and I wrote "we are the kind of exhausted that makes you wonder if maybe you accidentally inhaled too much of that pot you just walked by. What the hell were we thinking?"

We had a few hours to kill so we went in search of something to get for lunch and dinner for later, but we couldn't find anything. We wandered for a good half hour before we saw a sign that said "centro," assuming it mean the center of town we walked there which took another half hour-ish. I found a little corner store and got way too many apples because I was too tired to count, and then we finally found a little kebab/pizza place.

You have to imagine us, two girls with three big bags, five if you count the huge ones under our eyes, on the verge of collapsing right there, struggling to order food from a man who spoke no English. Chelsea ordered pizza. I pointed at what looked to be a calzone and got him to tell me what was in it, realized I didn't care, weakly pointed to it and said I would take one. Then remembering dinner I pathetically looked up at him "falafel?" "Ah, si," and pointed to another plate. Okay, I'll take that too. He looked at me, confused "so this one, and not that one?"
"No no, this one AND that one." More confused looks. He could clearly see we were half dead.

I swear at this point he must have thought we were some poor foreign hobos, I could literally feel the pity he was emitting. We stood awkwardly for a while, until he told us to put our bags down and sit. He tried to make a few jokes but we were too tired to do anything more than weakly smile. In the end when we were paying he totally undercharged us, "it's okay, it's okay." Once we left the place we just started laughing at how incredibly pathetic we must have looked to the nice old man. We still had some time so we walked to a park where I became a fully-fledged hobo and took a nap on a bench. Yup, dignity has a funny way of dying at moments like that. The last thing I wrote in my notebook: "Lord please just get our idiot selves back home safe."

We got up and started walking back, expecting it to take us an hour, but after walking five minutes we were back at the station. Our poor brains were very confused and we spend a few minutes just staring at each other and turning our heads "but how... what?" So we magically had another hour to kill which we used to drink more coffee.

We finally got on the bus, struggled through 8.5 hours of sleepless sitting, and were dropped off in Lyon. In case you didn't already think we were idiots, let me try to convince you. When we were buying tickets we figured we could get off in Lyon and hop right onto the train, so the half hour between when we were dropped off and when the train left seemed perfect. We failed to realize that there are two train stations in Lyon, and we were being dropped off in the wrong one. We realized this about a week before we left, so we planned on calling a taxi and praying and crossing fingers and toes and everything else that we got there on time. Thank God we did, because it was literally the last train from Lyon to Grenoble, otherwise we would have had to sleep in the station or something. That would have taken me to a whole new level of hobo, and I'm not sure I'm ready for that yet.

We got to Grenoble, the lovely family I live with came to pick us up because the trams stopped running, and I got home around 1:00 am. It was so, so, so nice having my bed back, being in a place with good wifi. And it was really nice to come home and have someone to give you a hug and be happy you made it back alive.

So the trip back was nuts. We got back about a week ago, and looking back, yes, I think it would have been smart to cut the number of places we saw in half. But sleeplessness aside, it was a privilege and a blessing to be able to see so many places and meet so many amazing people. :)

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