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  • Dougie

Going home is getting real

The distance between the Glam Hotel Milano and the entrance to Milano Centrale is two hundred and sixty metres. I am wearing a most un-glam $12 polo shirt from Target. So we proceed with caution because I do not want to scare Armani-clad locals two days in a row.

As dawn breaks we sneak out of the hotel, make our clandestine way across Piazza Duca d'Aosta towards the Milano office of SaluBlu (the assistance service for boarding). It's at the far end of platform one. We know this because when the 22 minute change of train arrangement proved as unlikely as I thought it might (on our journey south) we spent twenty minutes in the office while new plans were made.

I did not say, "I told you so" two weeks ago. I'm not saying it now. But I did tell them.

Today, we have another early morning train to catch. Our final Frecciarossa of this trip. Train 9292, the 6:25 a.m. to Paris Gare de Lyon.

We reach the station entrance -- just before six o'clock -- where we are met by a polite and helpful man from SaluBlu assistance. He had seen us crossing the Duke's Square but was not permitted to step across the station's boundary to offer assistance in the outside world. He is not covered by occupational health and workplace safety insurance, it would seem. And so he waited patiently while the most unglamorous passenger in the history of Italian railways pushed onto protected -- Sacred -- ground.

We could tell -- as we waited to SalaBlu priority assistance skip the queue on the already busy concourse -- that time was pressing on the man's no doubt busy day ahead. And when the secret signal was given we were off like a shot to Platform 4, carriage seven and the backwards entrance via the wheelchair hoist (this time battery powered in the big city).

The journey takes a little under seven hours. We race across Piedmont, through Torino, before the train slows down to climb up into France where it skirts the Alps. Morning clouds have not yet cleared and although we're thousands of feet lower than the high mountains around us the temperature outside the train has fallen dramatically since we left Milano.

Within an hour, however, we find ourselves stationary, sitting outside Lyon with no real explanation of the reason. There is no indication of when we might get moving again.

At last, therefore, I understand why TrenItalia has provided us with Ferrari red airline eye masks. To keep us in the dark as we sit, immobilised.

But that tragic Dougie joke wears thin ... quite quickly. Spike breaks out the second half of the packed lunch that Stephanie made for us before we left the Trullo. The most enormous caprese sandwiches; a little bit of Italy to bite upon as we sit in France and wait on a train that's never late.

Ninety minutes later we are back at speed, heading north west across central France towards Paris. The landscape is unmistakable. The mode of transport -- tomorrow's world.

Before we really know it, we reach Paris. I know that something on the track today disrupted our high speed train and delayed our arrival. But I cannot be anything except amazed that here we are -- eight hours later, give or take -- last to leave the platform at the Gare de Lyon. Regrettably, it is our final, one-night stop before the big trip back Downunder.

I cannot say I'm looking forward to it (for many reasons). I'll deal with that tomorrow.

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