It was one of those moments when you wake up in a strange bed and feel disoriented, wondering where the heck you are. And then I remembered, Oh yes, I'm on a train.
It was five weeks in during my semester studying in France when classes halted for a two week-long break. In these five weeks, I had made friends with two American girls from my study abroad program and another Swedish girl from one of our classes. Together we had decided to set off to southern France and then on to Barcelona to fill our two weeks with as many adventures as possible.
I had volunteered as trip organizer, booking our flights and accommodations. Though we could have flown to Nice, it was cheaper to take a train, and after all, why not take advantage of France's famously speedy and efficient railway systems? I also had always thought the idea of taking a sleeping car and traveling overnight on a train to be appealing, and perhaps even slightly romantic. Thankfully the girls seemed to like my idea and I booked our tickets.
We knew full well that our sleeping car wouldn't be spacious or glamorous at the rate we paid, and we were curious to see how six individuals were to fit into one sleeping compartment. Yes--we would be sharing a compartment with three other strangers! We ended up sharing with a mother and her two children, both of whom were extremely quiet, well-behaved, and slept soundly.
The beds pulled out of the wall and were stacked three high on either side of the compartment. By the sheer kindness of my travel mates, I ended up on the lowest bed. Our train had departed around 10:30 at night, and by 11:30, we were all tucked into our beds, partially as a courtesy to the very sleepy children curled up opposite from us.
As I lay there, I stared at the twinkling stars out the window by my feet. The clickity-clack of the train quickly lulled me to sleep, and I slept deeply and soundly the whole night through.
I awoke early, as sunlight began to peek into our compartment. I propped myself up on my elbow to see out the window and stared for many moments, certain what I was seeing was an illusion. It was the sea!
There was my first glimpse of the Mediterranean, seemingly yards away outside our window, sparkling with the most gorgeous shades of orange and red from the sunrise. I was in awe, feeling I had stepped into a dream. This--this was one of the most beautiful sights my eyes had ever seen, and appearing at such an unexpected moment.
A huge smile crept across my face as I took in the beauty of the sea in the utter quiet and stillness of our little train compartment. What a glorious beginning to our adventures along the sea.