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15 July 201403:19AMeurope-2014travel


So there we were, minding our own business on the third train out of five. We'd just struck up a conversation with Mike, a tour guide in charge of shepherding 38 retirees through Europe's train network. He had presumably come out to see why a bunch of ragged looking youths were camped in the luggage compartment.

(We were camped there because we had about five minutes to make a transfer between a regional train from Lyon and the TGV to Milan. We didn't have time to make a reservation, and there were no seats. Hence, camping in the luggage compartment. I cannot recommend standing room on a TGV less, in case you were wondering.)

We had stopped in a little town on the French-Italian border called Modane, and while charming, tiny border towns are not usually serviced by the fastest high-speed train in the world. It transpired that this was the real reason Mike had moved vaguely forward from his flock, so he could intercept a conductor and ask why.

This was our first hint that something might be wrong.

Without much warning at all, everything in the train switched off. Including, concerningly, the doors, lights, and air conditioning.

This was the second hint that something might be wrong.

The third hint that there was something weong was when not the friendly conductor who had promised to find us seats, but the train driver, began walking down the corridor alternating between French, Italian, and very broken English, telling everyone that there was something wrong, and that we would need to get off the train, and that buses would be here in "maybe one hower" to take us the rest of the way to Milan.

It was theb explained to us as we got off the train that the engine had, in fact, caught on fire.

Needless to say, we missed our connections. There are worse places to be stuck, though, and worse bus trips to take.

(As Grace put it on the phone to the travel insurance guy, "We have been stranded in a beautiful part of the world and forced against our will to take a scenic bus trip to the fashion capital of Italy." Surprisingly, he said we had a pretty strong case for claiming tonight's acommodation.)

So that was a bit of an adventure.

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