We have considered that this journey seems to unfold in “chapters“. We think that the overnight “Train Hotel” to Lisbon qualifies as it’s own chapter. We are not strangers to sleeper trains in Europe. I have traveled from London to Paris where the entire train was put into a ship and crossed the English Channel from Dover to Calais then on to Paris. This was pre-Chunnel. I have also ridden the Orient Express from Belgrade to Paris… Hercule Poiroit was not on board.
In 1991 we traveled with our children from Amsterdam to Munich in a non-private second class “Couchette” with 6 beds organized 3 high on each side. Our family occupied 5 of the bunks, and the 6th was held by a Yugoslav expat who lived in Amsterdam with his wife and young daughter where he was employed as an electrician. It was the start of the disintegration of Tito’s Yugoslavia. He was traveling to Munich and then on to the border where he hoped to enter his former homeland covertly to extract his parents. He and I spent the entire night awake, sharing beers and talking life and family. I was on a vacation and he was on a literal life and death mission. He explained that if he were caught the best case scenario was forced conscription, the worst, execution. To this day I wonder of the outcome…
Our train accommodations from Madrid to Lisbon were technically 1st Class, but not when compared to the glory days of rail travel in Europe that I had experienced decades ago. We had a simple private compartment with 2 beds and a sink. Clean and efficient, we were provided with toiletries and towels. The beds were comfortable and our coach adjoined the restaurant/bar car. The best “perk” was that we had access 2 hours before boarding to the Renfe (Spain’s National rail line) private lounge and complimentary snacks and beverages.
After the typical on-time departure, Christine and I took seats in the bar-car for some snacks and vino tinto (red wine). We made the acquaintances of a young couple from Austin Texas. She, Morgan, is a very talented artist exhibiting in Europe and Jerome owns and operates along with his mother a bakery, “Rolling in Thyme and Dough”. Morgan and Jerome have known each other for half their lives and about 18 months ago awoke to the realization that they loved each other. We talked life from both sides of the mirror, shared laughter seasoned with wine and olives. I will remember them.
Arrival in Lisbon was before 8am. We are guests of The Poets Hostel of Lisbon. They agreed to hold our packs as check-in was not until 2:30, but they graciously allowed us to take breakfast. Christine and I then left to walk 7 miles of this very hilly city, visiting the main Plaza, securing seat reservations for our Wednesday train to Porto, touring the 11th Century Castle that overlooks the city, and of course the Cathedral where we encountered other Pilgrims who were there,like us, to obtain sellos (stamps) on their Credentials.
Our Hostel facilities and room are top-notch at only 50 euros a night. We have a private balcony and an incredible view. A clean room, friendly staff… this was a good choice.
Peace Everyone! Pete