My time at L’Abri was drawing to a close. Students are only allowed to be there for three months. Some students apply to stay as a worker, but for me, I was ready to see Europe. I had decided that 30 April 1979 would be the day I would take off. Many of my friends are already gone and there were not many people there at this point. I had talked about going south to see Rome, Athens and maybe the Island of Crete. Several people tried to talk me out of going south since the May Day Celebrations were about to start first week of May. That would put me right in the middle of it. Rome is a bad place to be at that time for Americans, especially those who are traveling alone. Since they could not talk me out of it, I had my heart set on seeing Italy, Greece and the Greek Islands before heading home at the end of May. My flight home was out of London so this would be my only chance of going south. The meals at L’Abri are special and when someone is about to leave, everyone treats them special, giving them small gifts and praying over them. My last meal there someone gave me a card that was written in perfect calligraphy, “A man plans his way, but God directs his steps”. They knew I was not going to change my mind on going south, so they prayed for my safety. That meant so much to me.
During my time here I had collected some clothes, either buying or going through the grab bag. I needed more cold weather things than I had brought with me. Since I did not want to pack those clothes around Europe and not needing them, I boxed them up to ship home. I think I sent two boxes of clothes and other stuff home. I even left some stuff in the grab bag for future students to take advantage of.
On Saturday, 28 April which was my last day off as a student, I went to Lausanne to schedule my train to Rome and to validate my Eurorail Pass. Monday morning, 30 April I got up early excited to start my trip south. After breakfast I said goodbye to everyone. As I waited for the bus to go to Aigle, I reflected over the past months here at L’Abri. I was sad to leave but excited about the future.
I arrived in Lausanne just before 12:00, went to the train station to reserve my first class seat to Rome. The train is scheduled to leave the station at 19:18 or 7:18 pm that evening. In Switzerland, if a train or bus is scheduled to leave or arrive at a specific minute, you can count on that happening on time. I had time to walk around the city so I rented a locker for my backpack and headed out to find lunch and see Lausanne for the last time this trip.
I got back to the train station in time to board the train and find my first class compartment. The train pulled away from the station at exactly 19:18. Once again, I was on my own with no one in my path expecting me.
The French Alps across Lake Geneva
The last sights of Switzerland before sunset
Going through the Rhone River Valley heading south with the Swiss Alps on both sides of the train was a beautiful sight. When it got too dark to see out the window, I folded the seats down to make a large bed. During the night I woke up to the train leaning, I looked out the window but could not see anything, then all of a sudden a train going the opposite direction was going past at what seemed a few feet away. We were in a tunnel corkscrewing down to come out of the Alps onto the Italian landscape. As we exited the tunnel the moon was high and bright. It was beautiful outside.
I was able to fall back asleep after the conductor came through to stamp our passports for entering Italy. It was not long before the train started to slow as we came into Florence. Three more hours to Rome. The granola bar and apple tasted good but now I wished I brought more snacks.
First sights of Italy in daylight
The train arrive in Rome at 07:30 and the skies were overcast. As I exited the train, one of my backpack strap broke so I looked for a store at the train station where I could buy a belt to replace that strap. I got a locker for the backpack and as I was walking away from the locker area a guy come up to me and asked where I was from. I innocently said Texas. He grabbed my shirt and threw me up against the lockers and said for this week you are from Canada, if you answer Texas or America, bad things can happen to you because of the May Day stuff and you are traveling alone. He let me go and said, sorry to be so rough, but I needed you to know how important that is, it could save your life. Funny thing about when that happened, my only concern was the camera and other lens in my day pack might get damaged since that is what hit the lockers. I really did not fear for myself.
I found a store nearby, bought a cheap belt for my backpack and a white t shirt with a red Canadian Leaf across the front. I took that guy serious! Fortunately for me, my blonde hair is almost shoulder length and I am wearing wire rim glasses, so I look more European than American. Just have to remember to talk as little as I could because of my Texas accent. But you know what is interesting? I was confident that all is going to be ok but I still took precautions.
I looked for a place to stay the night but all the pensions and hostels were full due to the May Day holiday. I went back to the train station to get on a train going south. I wanted to get to Athens.
This is not that good of a picture but this is in the train station in Rome as I waited for my train to board