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

Tourisme Grande Vitesse

I'm writing this at midday in Barcelona. I'm the only customer in an Irish pub, which I don't think was open when I arrived, more like it just had the doors open to let some air in. Nonetheless the barman was more than happy to serve me a Guinness, complimentary in fact about my early start. He asked what my story is, and listened wide-eyed in wonder as I regaled, in brief, the previous 15 days' journey. I've given him a bit of paper with some URLs on. They don't have a breakfast menu but are making me some specially. There's a poster on the wall for the KISS Army, Spanish branch and they've lent me some electricity to charge my phone. It's dark and cool while outside it's about 30°c already.

I like it here.

I'm not really gonna say much about Zurich. We stayed in a cheap grotty hostel in the centre, popped out for some EIGHT QUID beers, and I had a dream about shopping for hats - as usual I couldn't find one that fitted me for ages, until finally a leather trilby was perfect, but cost £168. Great dreams I have. Stretch says he woke up several times in the night wondering why the fuck we weren't moving, the 4-bunk dorm making him think it was a train, delayed again, delayed again...

Soft caffeinated fluids plus pastries at the station. A brief chat with an Australian in transit, whose luggage was still in Singapore. We told him what had happened in the cricket during his flight. He seemed crestfallen.

No reservations for the Zurich to Geneva train. Stupidly busy, we picked a coach and seats at random and made camp. Only once we were settled did we notice they were reserved for someone, but we waited to get kicked out. Lester took his rail pass out to write the journey on, and out of the bum bag came a reservation slip he didn't remember ever seeing before.

It was for the seats we were in. Fuck me!

No mountains, but lots of lakes and fields. The odd bit which looked like Warwickshire. And then a fucking huge lake. Hello, Lake Geneva. Treated to some great views towards the mountains over which the day's Tour de France riders were cycling, we pulled into Lausanne for our briefest cameo appearance, as old colleague Fernando jumped on for the 20 minutes to Geneva. He brought with him wine, cheese, meats, chocolate, a great spread. Lightning discussions about life since he last saw any of us were had, then we had 15 minutes to change country. At Geneva you go through a border before the train leaves, having to bugger off outside and up the street into the customs and immigration bit of the station to platforms 1 & 2 for France.

The train to Lyon was a baking hot heavily crowded service, made better by cheese, chocolate, and electricity. Not a great deal out of the window. 2 hours to travel 170km or so. Yawn. At Lyon we had three or so hours to kill, and after a pub/left luggage fiasco we all but Paul settled in a pub with no television while John set off to find somewhere we could watch the Tour.

The 10 minute walk to that place was one of the hottest walks I've ever done, worse than going between two hotels in Dubai. I hated it. Thankfully the bar was air conditioned and empty, and sold us nice drinks and food while indulging our appetite for cycling. Some Aussies joined us. My god there's a lot of Aussies in this continent.

There's also a lot of Iron Maiden shirts. I think I saw at least one in every capital city except Skopje, Belgrade, and Sarajevo.

Back to the station to regroup with Paul, and Mick, who had valiantly stayed behind with the bags, it was time to get on possibly the fastest train of the trip. While some journeys were all about the scenery, and some where about getting from capital to capital, this was about speed: 550km in less than 2 hours. We've only got long haul trains left now, really, no short changes or distances, and lots of modernity.

No fucking plug sockets though.

Only Dave and I stayed awake the distance, experiencing the sections of 300kmh+ travel on the ground. We made it to Paris early - early - and carted our gear across the river from terminus to terminus, de Lyon to d'Austerlitz. 3 hours taken up by a variety of croques and drinks. We're not exactly grumpy but it's ever so slightly feeling like a grind. Having to get to Barcelona via Paris is a ridiculous route, but the only feasible one by train. We're moving into ever hotter territories with 2 full weeks of exhaustion in our bones. Only 2 unvisited countries and capitals left over 4 remaining days, 4 countries in a single day feels a distant memory. Maybe Iberia will be a struggle.

No comments: