Trip Start Jun 01, 2002
33Trip End Oct 15, 2002
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
Our next step was to get into Spain. We toyed with the idea of hitching, but in the end we decided to get the train to Barcelona. Once we'd found out that it was actually pretty cheap, neither of us could really throw ourselves into hitching. So that's what we did.
The train took us through the mountains, and it was all rather pretty. We had been warned that the weather in Spain was much the same as in France, but when we changed trains at the border the sun was baking. We found some English guys (easy to spot due to whiter than white skin crisping up nicely under the sun) and borrowed a look at their map. It looked like after Barcelona we'd do well to head to Valencia. Our plan was to head down south as far as Alicante, because we were spending a couple of weeks at Karim's grandparents and they lived nearby.
The problem we had in Barcelona was that everybody spoke Spanish. In France we were all right - you'd be surprised how far GCSE French six years ago can get you. But Spanish was this whole other problem. At the station Karim tried to phone his Grandparents to let them know we were on our way, but the phone was playing up and he got some Spanish recorded message. No matter, thought we, we just have to find someone to translate it.
This led to what I still believe is the best use of language that the free world has ever seen. Karim marched up to the first person he saw and asked, very politely, "Do you speak Spanish?"
"Si", came the reply.
Then silence. I, watching from afar, burst out laughing.
"OK", Karim said, slightly hesitantly. "Do you, er, speak English?"
I laughed some more.
We eventually found some Portuguese girls who spoke Portuguese, Spanish and English. They translated the message for us, but it didn't really get us anywhere - I was still laughing at the idea of asking a Spanish guy in Spain if he spoke Spanish in English.
We went to the bus station, and while Karim joined the stupidly long queue, I sat down and waited. I got chatting to the girl sat next to me, who was Polish. She was telling me that she and her boyfriend were getting a bus all the way down to Alicante. This was something that hadn't really occurred to me before. I just kind of assumed we'd better do the whole thing in little stages.
Karim arrived back with our tickets to Valencia around the same time her boyfriend came back. It was only costing them about six Euros more to travel about three times the distance. Karim went back to the ticket guy, and after much shouting, swearing, hand gestures and effort on his part, acquired us tickets to Alicante instead.
Our new Polish friends thought this was great, and were already talking about giving us a lift from Alicante to Karim's grandparents house. Bless them.
We left them and went out for a bite to eat - the bus didn't leave until midnight. We weren't really fussed about seeing much of Barcelona while we were here, as we'd be coming back in a few weeks to meet Karim's girlfriend. Why did notice that they had an Arc De Triumph though. It was smaller than the one in Paris, and it was red. And it didn't have a seven lane roundabout going around it with no lane markings and an abundance of French motorists with death wishes. So, on the whole, it just wasn't as impressive.
When we got back to the bus station, we found the right place to be in and waited. Of course, there are right places and there are right places. What we didn't know was that we were in one of the wrong right places. After much panic and being shouted at in Spanish, we finally found our bus. We had made it ten minutes late. We were the last two people to get on. It was full, apart from our seats. As we walked past the chairs full of disgruntled Spaniards, we saw our Polish friends, trying hard not to make eye-contact.
Spanish buses are annoying. They seem to have been built for people no taller than four foot. And then they fill them up with nocturnal Spanish folk, hell-bent on talking very loudly from midnight to seven in the morning. And they show American films, dubbed over in Spanish, so you have no idea what's going on, but the sheer oddness of watching Forest Whitikar talk with a high pitched Spanish voice means you keep watching.
Sleep was, of course, just something that happened to other people.