Days 35 & 36
Trip Start Dec 24, 2011
55Trip End Feb 27, 2012
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Where I stayed
Up early today. We have a quick drive to Perpignan. Bags are packed we are ready to go and just waiting for Isabelle to hand the keys back. We have had wonderful time in Carcasonne. Isabelle is on time, it's now 9:00am. We have a quick conversation about our stay, answer her questions about the apartment and hand back the keys.
We have a train to catch at Perpignan that teaves at 12:23pm. It is about 120 odd kilometres, still need to fill up and find the drop off point. Things go well. We find a fuel station not far from the on ramp and fill up. A budget station as there are no plastic gloves or paper towel supplied for the gasoil pumps. Smelly hands!! The little opel has been pretty good on the gas. Highway travelling it consumed on average 4.4 ltrs per 100kms. Average speed at about 105kph. 35 ltrs fill the tank and luck would have it, the fuel nozzle handle isn't drenched in diesel
We follow the instructions, as usual I have missed the turn
Back in the car. Pay the parking toll, which I nearly miss, and head off down the road, under the rail line, turn left and proceed as g'maps shows. We get to the end of the station, and still cannot find the place. I park in the taxi stand to have a good look around. Can not see a damn thing! Carmen suggests to park in the underground parking, so we don't get fined, now that would be icing on the cake, so find the correct gear after several attempts and head for the entrance. Pulling up next to the ticket machine, there is a green and yellow sticker that looks familiar. It is about 30mm by 120mm. That's it. Their total signage for Europcar. Man, you could have just got out of the car and done a number on the ticket machine. Level one. It should be here. Round we go once, twice and a third time and nothing
Carmen lets some french steam off, we give him the papers and he wants the keys. We still need to collect our bags, but we don't know where the car is! He finally gets up off his chair and comes round from behind his desk and we three, go on a car hunt. He is madly using the key lock to try and sight the flashing lights but no response from the car. On the other side of the car park. the opel sits, lights now flashing. We have made some head way. He gets in the car to check the mileage and fuel- here comes another bill, as I empty the car of our belongings. He does the paper work, gets in the car and drives away. That's it! This has been one heck of a morning.
Bach up stairs to the train station. Find the facilities, then the train info. That completed, we sit and have about a 40 minute wait till the train pulls in at 12;23pm. The train is listed but no platform yet. We calmly wait and settle from the car fiasco and munch on some biscuits for lunch
As the train starts, there are only 4 people in the carriage with one stop before ours where we need to change trains, so we swap seats. A large window seat with the seats facing the way the train goes. Its is a TVG for about 20 minutes which passes very quickly. Hardly enough time to take the cameras out and take some more pics of the snow topped mountains. We cross the border in a tunnel and the french phone connection is haulted. Typical! The country side is green, cultivated and the houses show typical Spanish style. As the train pulls in, I ready the bags again for the swap over. There are numerous employees on the platform to ask about the train, is this etc. Here is carriage such and such. There is only one class on this train and luggage storage is at a premium. I can accommodate the little bags only in the places that are left and the big bags I stuff behind some seats. As usual we are riding backwards. When the train starts rolling, we swap seats again as do some of the other passengers and settle in for the 2.5hr trip. The train is only an everyday train. Nothing special and is an extension of the TVG. The small roof mountefd monitor displays the date, temp - 17deg and we are travelling at 140 kph. Not bad for a local train.
The ground shows that they have had some considerable rain. It is still cloudy but no rain. The train pulls in and we have many things to arrange before we meet a friend of Carmen's.We only have tonight and tomorrow till our next car experience- Barcelona to Madrid- 620km for the day. With no GPS and some help from the locals we find our hotel. It again is a small room, but clean, serviced and with an elevator. For two nights, it will be fine. With this sorted we are off to find the car place to make sure the car has been booked for Monday morning and to try and change the drop off location. It's late now, about 4pm and we drop into Maccas for some wifi to check on some arrangements. This takes longer than it should and we are now off to figure out the metro, something that Carmen is very reluctant to do, to be on time for for our meeting. It's not too difficult to sort out and we are soon on the train
Yolanda is running a little late because the bus she was on was not able to travel completely down la rambla due to a demonstration about Spanair that the government just stopped from operating, leaving lots of passengers in the lurch. I'm standing at the base of Columbus' statue wondering if I will recognise her - it has been a number of years since I have seen her - but, no worries, she waves madly from across the road and I know it's her. We have a great evening catching up on what she is doing and how she ended up in Barcelona - we wander up la rambla, through the vella ciutat and the barrio gotico, we visit Santa Maria de la Mar - all lit up, full of people doing the same thing we were - no camera, so it's on the list for tomorrow - we don't quite manage to get into Barcelona cathedral - in fact, we arrived just as they were closing up for the night - once more, on the list for tomorrow - we wander through the plaza reial and the plaza de la republica - up and down narrow, little streets, jostling shoulders with every other wanderer - we cross la rambla and enter la boqueria - the fresh food market, apparently well known and photographed often - talk, and more talk - ending up for dinner in El Taller de Tapas - great environment and great food, and with Yolanda's company - it couldn't have been better - we dined on tapas - chorizo cooked in cider, bunuelos de bacalao, tortilla (the Spanish kind, not the Mexican one), grilled fresh asparagus with EVOO, patatas bravas with aioli and spicy paprika sauce, and foccacia style bread rubbed with fresh tomato - just heaven
Sunday morning sleep in - breakfast at the train station - metro to Sagrada Familia - only 5 stops away. Out of the station, hop on the line for the tickets - it's 10 am - hear the ticket seller say that the earliest lift available up one of the towers is 11.30 - decide to skip that and buy cathedral visits only. Wow, and double wow and we haven't even got into the church, yet. Silly me, I thought this facade was mind blowing - inside defies description - you don't know what to look at first, or where to look first - complete and utter sensory overload - trying to take it all in, and process all that you see. We seem to walk all over, and more than once, twice, sometimes three or four times, seeing different things from different angles - it's one of those places that is impossible to describe with words or pictures, and accurately, or completely, convey the sense of it all
Back to la rambla on the metro, and lunch in a cafe-bar - tapas of Spanish ham, manchego cheese (sheep's milk), tortilla (the potato kind) and chorizo de pamplona (a kind of salami - red in colour due to the smoky paprika used in its making), with bread and coke, of course. First bathroom I've seen that has graffiti all over it! This place was in a corner of the plaza reial, where there was a kind of collectors market (coins, stamps, old books, coasters, etc.) and a boot sale, whede these sellers laid their 'junque' on bed sheets on the ground. Finally found the cathedral, my map from the tourist office - which is actually a brochure for a hop on hop off bus - isn't very detailed. Paid the entry fee and went in - look here, look there - photo after photo - information over load - Peter climbs to the roof for a rooftop view of Barcelona - I sit quietly (it's possible in this church) and look carefully around me, trying to absorb it all - carefully reading the inadequate guide provided with the entry fee so as not to miss anything. This cathedral is dedicated to the exaltation of the holy cross and St Eulalia, who was martyred at 13, so in the church garden, in the centre of the cloister, there are 13 noisy, demanding, lively geese, in memory of her age