After having tried the walk to the Lyons railroad station yesterday, we were prepared to take a cab today; in fact, we were ready to insist on it. Imagine our surprise then, when we asked the hotel clerk to call us a cab, and she asked if we were going to the station, that she said the bellman would take us in the hotel van! This started the day off right.
We joined the regular commuters in inspecting the white sheet listing all the schedule changes for the day. We had a start there for a moment because two of the trains to Chambery were cancelled -- but not ours. So we headed off for our track and soon bid farewell to Lyons.
Leaving Lyons we began to climb, first into hilly and picturesque vineyard and farmlands, then into the mountains, steeper and taller until finally the snowcapped Alps came into view. Little villages here and there hugged the hillsides. The train went through shorter tunnels, emerging for dramatic views of rocky canyons and racing rivers.
Chambery itself is apparently a large manufacturing and transportation center. Our regional train from Lyons made a connection with the TGV from Paris to Milan, which is not on high speed track but is an express train. We had made the obligatory reservations, and the transfer went quite smoothly.
We rode for another hour in France, and then crossed the border. We could tell because now the announcements were in Italian, English, and French, while in France they were in the order French, English, and Italian. We also could tell because the Italian conductor came to look at our tickets. He came by twice more, and asked to look at them each time. All our other conductors have remembered us and never asked for the ticket the second time.
As we've explained before, reservations are mandatory on the French TGV trains, even if they're not going on high speed track. We guess this is because they're trying to raise enough money to pay for these expensive trains. But the Italian conductor never asked to see our reservations. Possibly the reservations are only mandatory in France, but more likely because most travelers have tickets and not Eurail passes, so the reservations and tickets are all printed together.
Having all seats reserved saves the train staff a lot of work. On many other trains someone has to go through all the cars and put a little printed card on each seat saying something like Reserved from Hamburg to Koln and from Frankfurt to Stuttgart, or Not Reserved. If all seats are reserved, the little cards are unnecessary; everyone knows which seat he or she must use. On the other hand, the computer is not always that smart, and it does look strange for a passenger to get on a nearly empty car and sit down facing another passenger, their legs tangled up neatly, while nearby seats are vacant!
As we entered Italy we went through a long Alpine tunnel, and then descended from the mountains to the huge Po valley of north central Italy. All the way we could see the Alps to the north of us, dominant and snow-covered. The rivers were still swollen, and swirling foggy mist rose up over all the lakes and rivers.
Turin and Milan are large industrial centers, and the scenery next to the railroad is not very lovely. The Milan Central railroad station is gigantic, on two floors, with lots of tracks. We disembarked and got the local schedule without too much trouble, and took a cab to our hotel.
We're on Via George Washington, which is sort of unusual. We've seen lots of streets named for Kennedy, Wilson, and Roosevelt, even a couple for Eisenhower, but this is the first one we've noticed named for George Washington. It's a pretty nice neighborhood, and we found a serviceable supermarket a block away. Tomorrow we'll begin our explorations.