THE TRAIN FROM PARIS TO FLORENCE

This list is long and I don't apologize for it. This is one of my best adventures and I only wish I could tell it to you all in person.
  1. It's spring break 2004.
  2. I'm studying at the American University of Paris.
  3. I buy a ticket on the overnight train to Florence, Italy.
  4. I am so ready for an adventure.
  5. As I board the train I walk down the aisle looking for my room.
  6. A large man is standing in the doorway of one of the rooms ahead.
    Manspreading while standing which, if it wasn't so obnoxious might be impressive.
  7. I'm pleading in my head, "please let that not be my room, please let that not be my room."
  8. Et voila. C'est la mienne.
    It's mine.
  9. He moves over just enough to let me in and I am immediately overcome with the worst smell of body odor I have ever encountered.
  10. It's gag-inducing at best and deadly at worst.
  11. I take a seat and wait for anyone else to join us in our cart.
  12. Luckily, it's a full train.
    And I won't be alone with Mr. BO.
  13. In our room with have a Chinese grandmother and her hip teenage granddaughter, a college-aged American male reading a political book, me and Mr. Smelly.
  14. We all read or otherwise occupy ourselves for the first few hours of the trip.
  15. At one point the ticket taker comes around and checks our passports and tickets.
  16. Ten minutes later there are two other workers at our door loudly questioning Mr. BO. I remember him saying over and over "No baggage! No baggage!!" with maybe an Italian accent.
    WHO TRAVELS TO A DIFFERENT COUNTRY WITHOUT A SINGLE BAG???
  17. Eventually the workers leave.
    The rest of us are eyeing each other like... What was that all about and did they really just leave him here with us and should we be concerned?
  18. As soon as it gets dark we all tacitly agree it's time to lower the beds and get settled for the night.
  19. Two hours later some Swiss guards with guns come and roughly escort Mr. BO out of the room and we never see him again.
  20. ~
  21. The next morning we are dropped off at a teeny tiny railroad station.
    Not the main station where I thought we'd be dropped.
  22. And of course I booked my hostel room on the same street as the main station so now I have to navigate the city of Florence at 7:00am with a carry-on wheely suitcase.
  23. I have no map.
  24. I speak no Italian.
  25. I am alone and pretty lost.
  26. I start walking.
  27. I get to a beautiful square with a beautiful church.
  28. There is a tourist stand selling maps.
    I buy one.
  29. I find the main train station and from there find my hostel.
  30. When I go to check in I realize I have lost my wallet.
    Or it has been pick pocketed.
  31. I walk back to where I bought the map and in broken French explain that my wallet is missing and have they seen it.
  32. They have not.
    Twelve years later I'm still suspicious.
  33. I go back to the hostel and thank the good Lord that someone once told me to separate my debit card from my cash so I still had my card tucked in my suitcase.
    But the 200 euros I had in my wallet were gone forever.
  34. ~
  35. I meet up with my best guy friend from Paris and spend three days in Florence and two days in Sienna.
  36. We walk down every small street and stop in every small cafe.
  37. I enjoy black olives for the first time in my life.
  38. I unsuccessfully haggle for a wallet at a flea market.
  39. We find a hilltop over an olive grove and enjoy the sunshine.
  40. We see a sign in a window for a three course menu for only 10 euros.
    It ends up being a microwave meal and we swear never to tell a soul we accidentally ate microwave food while in the middle of Italy.
  41. We stroll along the Arno and marvel at il Duomo.
  42. I eat the flattest, most delicious pizza I've ever tasted.
  43. I am so happy.