We are shutting down our France part of the story; today we begin the two day journey from northwestern France to southeastern Spain. From (not) speaking French to (not) speaking Catalonian. It will be a combination of car, train, metro, walking and high speed train, but by the time we are done, we will be set for the next part of the trip.
We have spun out our thread as far as it goes and now we follow it back whence the way we came (and yes…I put the word whence into the sentence because you shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to use ‘whence’ in a sentence. Plus I’m rereading the Game of Thrones). Into the car and drive three hours to Caen where we turn in our limousine. On which we have somehow placed over 1100kms which sounds like a lot, but is really like 25 miles. Metric is weird. Then onto a local train where we head back to Paris, arriving back at the Saint Lazare station. Our train to Barcelona leaves from Gare De Lyon and our hotel for the night is right outside Mssr. Lyon, so we have to get there. Quick check of google and it isn’t a trivial distance. We decide on the metro. It is a straight shot down the M14, four stops. Four stops. Remember that please. Because I don’t.
We get off the train and head into the underground, gather three one way tickets (5.70 euro) and then into the tunnels to catch our metro. Because it is Friday night at rush hour and everyone is trying to get the hell out of town there are about 10,000 other people. The only difference is we three are wearing backpacks and dragging luggage.1 The metro pulls up, it is mostly full, but we wedge our way aboard and are instantly separated. AJ went left, I went right and once again Jan is standing right in the doorway daring people to move her out of the way. There are no takers.
And off we go. For three stops and at each stop we get more people on the train and more crowded. And at the third stop, I put my head down and push through the crowd, yelling at AJ to get off and pulling Jan off with me. Because if you are going to be wrong, be wrong in a big way!
I have an issue. I tend to get off of trains/subways/metros/light rails one stop early. Consistently. Didn’t do it when I rode the metro to work every day. Didn’t do it when I was younger. But something has snapped in my brain and when no one is watching me, I’m outta there early. Which is what I did now. AJ is super confused…he knew we were out early. Jan was not confused…she was fighting for her life and had no idea which stop we were at. We looked at the distance to walk from here and it is 2+ miles. Not happening. So we queue up to get on to the next car (they arrive every three minutes). And the next one is jammed. As is the next. And the next. You get the idea. FINALLY we move from the front of the train to the back of the train and the next one that shows has some daylight into which we wedge ourselves. One more stop and we are off.
Gare de Lyon is big and there is some confusion as we make our way out to get to the hotel but it doesn’t take too long before we find it which is almost connected to the station. We drop our bags and find out that this is the best hotel room to date. It isn’t big–matter of fact, it is the exact opposite of big. Walk in the door, on your right is the bathroom, past the bathroom are three beds. But the common wall between the bathroom (the shower stall specifically) and the bedroom is made of glass. Which is super, super creepy. Means that everyone in the bedroom can watch the person in the shower take a shower. And not like from the shoulders on up to the head. Nope. The full monty. Then AJ finds the magic button. You push the button and the window fogs up. Push it again and it clears up. Which is amazing and AJ I spend a solid hour over the night playing with the damn thing. But super weird that they designed a shower wall so that it looks over the bed and then made the wall transparent. Maybe we got a ‘special’ room.
Dinner time rolls around and we decide to head out of the hotel and down a lovely tree lined boulevard to have dinner at an Italian cafe. Pizza for AJ and I, salad for Jan and they hit the spot for our last night in France. AJ even drops off some French on the waitress when he orders his apple juice and Jan and I about fall out of our chairs.
Saturday morning is early(ish). AJ and I hit the gym at 0730 while Jan hits the showers and cleans the room. By 0900 we are all out of the hotel and walking the 50m to the train station where we pick up both breakfast and lunch and then wait to get aboard our train for the 10:04 departure. This is a high speed train (>300km/hour) that will take just over six hours to travel from Paris to Barcelona. It is a very, very long train and very, very packed with people presumably heading out on vacation.
Our train is posted at 0955 and we queue up to go through ticketing and then walk about a kilometer to our train car. We are in our seats 10 minutes early which is the key to success. Get to the train early. Two reason. First is that there is limited baggage space and by getting there early, we got our bags on the rack and didn’t have to try to wedge them under our seats or in our lap for the six hour trip. And secondly, you get to your seat BEFORE someone else does AND you work out any issues before the train leaves.
Case in point. A dude traveling with his two daughters brings the three of them plus about 700 suit-cases onto our car. He gets a bunch of people in an uproar because they are sitting in his seats, there is some hand waving and yelling and when the dust settles it turns out the dude (and his 700 suitcases) was on the incorrect car. And his car is on the other side of an engine in the middle of this long train, so he can’t get there until our next stop. Which is in two hours. Some very nice people take pity on him and give up their seats for his daughters.
We are off and it is a hell of a ride. There are families and one in particular was memorable. Their 2 year old son was not happy when he got on the train and told everyone on board about how very unhappy he was. At about 147db2. For a very, very long period of time. Like eons.
Train ride complete we are disgorged in Barcelona Sans (train station). Lovely place. Our hotel was a 10 minute walk past a prison, complete with concertina wire on the top of the massive stone walls, which did not bode well. But when we walked into our hotel we were embraced in air conditioning and greeted by a woman who could be a model in a magazine.
We relax a bit, get a recommendation from Ms. Vogue at the front desk and then head off for some (CLICHE ALERT) tapas at a local restaurant. Our waiter is also a bit of a hottie and he takes us under his wing and gives us a Spanish class while whipping out small plates of food. Once we are sated, we wander back to the hotel to catch a night of sleep before we board our boat. Not sail boat, mind you. Cruise ship.
1But small luggage! Glad we didn’t bring the big stuff.
2The decibel level of a 747 during takeoff.