Milano Centrale

A friend of mine who has been living in Italy for some time told me that it’s best to be 30 minutes early for your train, especially since tickets are nonrefundable and train platforms can change without much information. And so, being the obedient travelers we are, we had lunch at the central station 2 hours before our scheduled departure. After lunch, we shopped at the nearby grocery store for food and drinks we could carry aboard the train, went up to where the train platforms were, and waited for our platform to be shown on the screen.

It wasn’t complicated, and I’m glad we came early. We did not rush, and we were confident that we weren’t getting left behind. We found seats in front of the screen, so we were able to see when our platform number became available.

Milano Centrale is one of the prettiest train stations I’ve ever been to, and getting to the station early afforded me the time to snap a few photos here and there. The main arrival hall has high ceilings that were apparently patterned after the Union Station in Washington DC. Milano Centrale has 24 platforms, serving 300,000 passengers every day. The building was inaugurated in 1931.

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Milano Centrale Arrival Hall

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The other half of the massive arrival hall

April 03, 2017 | Venice, Italy

Moroccan Commute

I’ve been in Morocco for 3 days now and I’m halfway through my Moroccan trip. I should by now be able to say something about commuting in Morocco. It was something I was very afraid of. Other than “merci” and “bonjour”, I have absolutely forgotten everything I’ve learned from previous French classes. I also know no Arabic, and acting out what I need is not my best talent. But I’m pleasantly surprised that everyone in Morocco can speak enough English for tourists like me and my husband to get by. We’ve had no problems buying train and bus tickets; we’ve had no problems checking in at hotels we’ve booked online; and we’ve had no problems ordering food from restaurants (although acting out what we want + Google translate did make life easier for all parties involved).

We arrived at the Mohammad V Airport in Casablanca from Paris, France. Since we did not have any checked-in baggage, we headed directly towards the exit after immigration. Upon exiting, we found a pseudo-information booth that gave free INWI sim cards. The sim cards are preloaded with some text, call and 250MB worth of data. Since neither our Danish nor US mobile phone lines have free sms, call or data in Morocco, these free sim cards are lifesavers. It has allowed us to access Google Translate and Google Maps while on the go.

There were two immediate things that we needed to find upon arrival: an ATM and the place to buy train tickets (trains in Morocco are called ONCF). We needed tickets from the airport to Casablanca and Casablanca to Fes since Fes was our first stop and Casablanca our last.  So, we asked help from one of the airport security personnel who told us that the nearest ATM was beside a coffee shop, on the way to where the trains are. There were, in fact, two ATMs beside the said coffee shop and both worked well (except that one ran out of money when we were there). The ticketing office, on the other hand, was just right at the entrance of where the train platforms are. The salesperson speaks English, and although he gave us the wrong train time for our Casablanca to Fes trip, the guys in Casablanca were able to fix our tickets.

The difference between a first class and a second class train ticket in terms of amenities is really not much. In first class, you get reserved seating and you are placed in a compartment of 6 with overhead luggage storage. The seats are wider and there is more leg room. In second class, seats are on a first come first serve basis. Luggages can be stored a designated corner in each wagon. The seats are arranged much like the seats on busses and airplanes; so not that much leg room. In both classes, there is AC, the seats are comfortable and eating and drinking are allowed.

From Fes, we traveled through the desert by CTM bus to Chefchaouen for 4 hours. There was 25-minute lunch and toilet break after 2 hours of travel. Our bus tickets were reserved by our the manager of the riad we stayed in at Fes. We were initially thinking of just getting it ourselves the day before, but our manager offered to have his friend get it for us as long as we pay the friend’s taxi fare. The taxi fare was 40 MAD roundtrip (around 4 USD). Not a terrible price, so we agreed.

In two days time, we will be traveling by Supratours bus for 10 hours to Marrakech and then from Marrakech, a train ride back to Casablanca. So far, getting hold of tickets and the ride itself has not posed any problems for us. Hopefully this stroke of good luck continues.

November 1, 2016 | Chefchaouen, Morocco