Subject: Re: Memorable train trips
Hello fellow travelers,

I had to chime in here, having experienced many memorable train trips, I acquired a whole set of new train stories when my family (four kids, spouse, I) Eurailpassed through Europe in the summer of 2001.

Several days after arriving in Paris, we boarded an overnight train for Spain, only to find that the lights were out in our couchette car. My oldest son and I set out to find someone who could help. We walked from car to car without seeing a train employee, and finally reached a locked door, At that point we decided to head back to our couchette, but when we got to the end of the cattle car section (crammed full of students camping out on the floors) we found the door locked, apparently to keep the rabble away from the other customers.

After about an hour or so, someone finally came along and opened the door--a rather severe looking woman with a clipboard. My son and I started to walk into the car, whereupon (in French, of course) she demanded our tickets. Who walks around the train carrying a ticket and psssport? I told her exactly what I thought of the French train service and, startled, she let us through.

We got back to our couchette--the lights had been on since a few minutes after our departure--to find the other four members of the family ready to go to sleep. I took out my contact lenses, and the zipper on my jeans broke. I'd had enough and decided to crawl into my bunk and deal with the jeans later.

But first, I wanted to pull down the shade on the aisle door window. I reached to the top of that window and found a lever, which I started to pull. Oh no! It was the (unmarked) emergency stop lever. The train stopped, and men with guns came rushing into our compartment. A train engineer (where had he been when we needed help with the lights?) asked which of us had committed this unspeakable crime. Of course my kids pointed at mom, and clutching my jeans, I climbed out of my bunk. He screamed at me in French, most of which I did not understand. However, he made it very clear that I had escaped being thrown into prison only because of his generosity.

Then he pushed the red button marked emergency (silly me, I had earlier assumed that that was the emergency button, but turned out that the emergency button was there to restart the train after an emergency) and the trip continued. My kids still haven't forgotten that one, though.

JoAnne in soon-to-be-stormy Silicon Valley