I blog when I go abroad, and occasionally when I do stuff in the UK too. There's a nicer interface over here.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Barça loner

The Paris to Barcelona train was, on paper, our poshest night train yet. Branded as a "trenhotel", it's pimped as something approaching the comfort of a regular wheel-less hotel. So it was a bit of a disappointment - no, a lot of a disappointment - to discover there were no showers and the corridors were cramped as hell. Nonetheless there was a bar carriage with convivial Australians in it, on their own tour of Europe with slightly less haste and speed. The beds were bloody comfortable though.

Before arriving, the only thing I had on my mind for Barcelona was to go visit the Nou Camp. But given the extreme temperature, and the time it took for us to make our way from Estacio de França to Sants and pack our luggage away, I decided against it. Paul had gone to see friends who happened to be around; Mark and Steve went to Sagrada Familia; everyone else went to the beach. I headed off on my own.

Originally I was heading for Scobies, a pub which came up first in my search for Irish pubs near Placa de la Catalunya. It was shut, so I just searched for pubs near where I was standing and up came the Shamrock, the place I was treated so absurdly well which I mentioned at the start of the last entry. BCN trips and bacon strips and ...

Barcelona has so much more to offer than dark Irish pubs with Guinness and English breakfasts. I know that. But I'd been here before, recently - my first ever visit was only in February this year. It's all so fresh in my memory, a bit too fresh: when I came, it was with my beautiful girlfriend. But I was a depressed and hopeless fool, and we split up within 2 weeks of getting back home, without seeing each other again. Bleh. So I was in the mood to escape Barcelona rather than be reminded too much of it.

I didn't want to forget or escape the overall trip though. I had a great time explaining the whole thing to Christian, the barman, and his boss Pedro. Of all the people I explained, or was present during the explanation of, our journey to, he was easily the most impressed and jealous. Nailed it with "surely you don't have wives or girlfriends!" though eh? (Bad Darren, enough with the rumination)

I took the time to blog a bit, plus talk with Ellen. She is an ex-yahoo living in Barcelona and we were trying to arrange a meet. With Mark's phone out of commission and mine out of reach in a pub kitchen we spoke via Facebook and she came to join me, just as I was finishing my second pint. Goodbyes and good lucks from the staff, we buggered off to Sants on the Metro where Mark, Steve, Mick, and in fact pretty much everyone, within 5 minutes, were having beer and a snack. Lots of catching up done, a full English inquisition into Ellen's time in Catalonia.

And then, a goodbye, again. The trains from Barcelona to Madrid involve airport style levels of security - x-ray machines for luggage, landside/trainside separation, a boarding gate. All this for a domestic train. Mad.

I was feeling very fired up and in cracking spirits after my great morning, so it was a genuine surprise when I sat down and promptly fell asleep for the first hour or so of the journey. I hadn't felt noticeably tired so, like, what?

The rain in Spain fell heavily on the plain. There was a real storm, particularly striking as we passed into the very edge of it. The onboard display told us we were travelling at just over 300km/h, and also that the outside temperature dropped from 36°c to 14° during the storm. Wow.

It was back up in the 30s when we hit Madrid. Before leaving the station whose name I forget we went for a wander around the back of it, the old station building which is now a giant greenhouse with loads of foliage and also turtles. What should then have been a regulation single line transit across the city to Charmatin turned into a pain in the arse 3 tube trek because they'd shut the middle 3 stations of the line we want to use. Grr.

At Charmatin we occupied the corner of an outdoor section - under a roof - of a tapas restaurant and ate a huge feast of cheeses and potatoes and anchovies and salads and all kinds of other stuff. There were power sockets. I have really struggled a lot without regular access to enough power sockets to keep my devices going and since Italy both the blogging and GPS recording have had to take a serious back seat.

A massive thunderstorm took place overhead, finishing just before we set off to the station. Our train didn't get a platform until very near the departure time, a wait entirely filled with me frantically hitting refresh on the BBC TdF coverage desperate for a Cavendish win. 2 laps to go and we slowly walked to the platform. 1 lap to go and we hung around outside. Bah, Kittel.

A virtually identical train to the previous one was taking us to Lisbon, Portugal. Our last country and city, our simultaneously southernmost and westernmost point. A small party stayed in the bar talking to a theoretical computer scientist/mathematician/philosopher. No Australians though.

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