The Other Train

Just back in Florence after a crazy week of a spring break, and I think I have finally earned the credentials to blog about major traveling in Europe.

I’ll begin with my story:

The day after St. Patrick’s Day, I eagerly packed my bags and left my apartment here in Florence for a fun-filled 10 days with one of my good friends Mary Ryan, also from New Paltz. We planned to meet in London airport, where we slept for the night, before traveling to Basel, Switzerland.

(*Side note: the Basel airport has both a French side and a Swiss side, so you can enter two different countries in the same airport, which is pretty crazy if you think about it.)

We arrived in Basel and after some miscommunications with the rental car company were resolved, we were on our way driving through the foreign country. (To those wondering, yes you can drive in Switzerland with just a U.S. driver’s license, and NO I do not recommend it.)

We arrived in Seon, Switzerland with the address of an Air BnB at a man’s house who was letting us stay there for 2 nights. After yet another miscommunication, Mary and I were stranded in a small town in Switzerland, being awake for 27+ hours, and couldn’t check into our room until 7PM. We continued to drive around and walk the lake just trying not to fall asleep.

7PM arrived, and our host was still nowhere to be found. Come to find out, we were being stood up by the owner! At 8PM we searched frantically for another place to spend the night, eventually coming across a nearly empty hostel down the street. We finally were able to shower and sleep—but not for long. Breakfast and checkout began at 9AM, so Mary and I packed up out 50L backpacks and got back on the road, with no destination in mind other than a new place to stay.

That day we drove through Zurich, Luzurn and across what seemed like a million small towns. We ended up in Engleberg, Switzerland when we finally found wifi and a means to communicate with the outside world. We found a hostel for the night nearby, which turned out to be more expensive as well as dirtier than the one the previous night (found two bloody tissues and a bed full of dirty Craisins).

FINALLY…we were on our way to Basel airport to pick up Mary’s friend, Meghan, and to head to Interlaken, Switzerland for a 2 night stay in yet another Air Bn’B. This one went a bit smoother; the host was very friendly and made us dinner as well as showed us around the town. We woke up in the morning and did some hiking and discovered some activities in the Swiss Alps that caught our eye.


After our stay there we said goodbye to Meghan and headed to the airport to return our car and catch the shuttle that would bring us to our bus to Beasoncon, France.

WELL…racing the clock Mary and I kept crossing over the French border and bringing the car to the French side of the airport. We were at a loss at what to do, no matter what roads we took we seemed to end up at the French side.

**If you ever want to have a frustrating time, think of this: we needed to just communicate with the Swiss side, and we could even see them through a glass door, but the French refused to talk to them… or even knock on the window!

So eventually, after crossing over into the Swiss side via International Arrivals (which I’m still not entirely sure is OK), I talked to the car rental workers who told us to leave the car on the French side…I had never been happier to hear those words. After a lot of running, pushing a baby carriage out of the way, and being a messenger between the French and the Swiss people, we arrived on the bus. (Although we were then stopped on the bus and asked to show our passports, and to buy another ticket…but that’s another story.)

We finally arrived at our friends’ houses in France, and we were so excited to see familiar, English-speaking people. Our stay in France went pretty smoothly—until our trip to Paris on Easter Sunday. Kate, Mary, and I took an overnight bus to get to Paris which dropped us off in the middle of nowhere. We searched and found the nearest McDonalds (Go America!) and waited until their wifi turned on for the day. Finally we found our hotel…and we also found it didn’t let you check in until 12. So for 4 hours, we roamed around Paris, with out backpacks on running on about 2 hours of sleep. From there our day went as planned, we went to church in Notre Dame, and we found a cute café for dinner. All in all, it was a good day.


From here on out, it was the struggle to get back to our home countries. I separated from Mary and found my plane to Pisa had been delayed; and when I finally got back to Italy, I found my bus to Florence was broken down.


But here I am, alive in Florence…telling you the summarized version of this trip.

I decided to make this a long blog post because I think it really embodies what it is like to travel over here on a student’s budget. Stuff gets hard, tiring, and altogether frustrating. I had been tested more than I ever had before just to get back here to Florence and I came back a little richer in experience and a lot “broker” in my wallet.

Would I give up the trip to just stay in Florence for spring break? Of course not. I have a whole lot of stories and confidence in myself after this trip. I made it through the worst and now I feel like I can do it all!

I think we just all have to remember that we can get through these difficulties as long as we are smart and believe in ourselves. We just have to all remember—there’s always another train J .


— That’s all for now, folks!


Cassandra, a biology major with a minor in creative writing at New Paltz, chose to study abroad to quench to her crave for adventure and search for understanding different cultures.

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