European Vacation Day 5 Barcelona to Cerbère, France

I woke up and decided to shop, get haircut and tux measurements. Oh yeah my friend Jay’s wedding was a few weeks after I get back and he said he needed info as I was a groomsman. It turned into a sort of quest to do some things I could do in the US but wanted to experience how they were overseas. I was totally not successful, but I tried.

I talked to a guy at the front desk that was way helpful in directing me to malls and barbers. I headed out but realized I was really hungry. I decided to eat first and soon found a deli and picked up some ham n a baguette. It was pretty good and reminded me of Madrid. I sat and ate on a park bench. An old man soon joined me and I said hello. He said something else in Spanish that I wasn’t too sure about so I nodded. He soon left and sat down at another bench. I think he just wanted someone to talk to and it made me a bit sad that I couldn’t converse. Another time

I walked and found the Barcelona mall. It’s just like a US one, multi-level but they had a much cooler outdoor food court. A novel idea, an actual food courtyard! I walked around for a bit and found what seemed to be the Spanish equivalent of the Gap. Since this was August they had a lot of summer t-shirts on clearance. I also found a sweet hat that made me look a bit French. I found a restroom and changed clothes.

The guy at the hostel told me that any dry cleaners could take measurements. I found one in the mall so I ventured forth and asked them. She didn’t understand even when I used the word he said was for measurements. I tried to mime the action of measuring and she didn’t understand that either. Oh well perhaps Paris will better for such things.

I knew for sure I wanted to check out Familia cathedral as JP said it had been under construction for over 100 years. I actually was able to talk to the two Finns who took the tour. As for finding the cathedral that is very easy as it’s the tallest thing in the city. It looms large on the cityscape. I started walking towards the direction of the cathedral. As it turned out, this was not such a swell idea as I walked through some of the more shady neighborhoods. There is an amazing lack of graffiti in most cities so you can learn what side of town you are in if you see any and I saw a lot. It was during the day so I was ok, but at night I’m sure things would be different.

Once I arrived at the cathedral it really was overwhelming to large degree. It dominates the whole skyline. I took pic after pic, it was so detailed. There were workers rappelling all over. They were hand carving more designs on the façade. Amazing! The line to get in was very long and I still had to go to the train station to figure out next destination. I headed into a gift shop to pick up a few things. Souvenirs!

Barcelona had just won the World Cup in soccer so there were lots of shirts and things available. I picked up a basketball jersey for Jeremy. Basketball is huge in Barcelona. Some NBA players come over and play for them too. I also got Barcelona flag for Erin and others magnets. The shop guy was a right old sales man. He was young maybe a bit older than I but he made a great case for shirts and things. He also told me Andorra was pretty and that there was a bus that went there. I ended up w about 50€ of souvenirs.

I took the train back to the main train station and found the line for out of country travel. It took awhile. There were several backpackers in front of me. When I say backpackers, I mean serious, full body length back packs. I thought it was a lost cause but I finally made it to the front. I asked about tickets to France, specifically Paris. He printed out a list, only once per day the train ran from Barcelona to Paris. He did find an alternate route to a city just inside the French border called Cerbère. Every day around 4-6 there was a train there and from Cerbère you could connect overnight to Paris. This was the plan now. It was Thursday and I had to start my northern trek prior to the weekend. I asked about the frequency of this trip and he said daily, ‘today or tomorrow, it is your choice.’

I opted to train it that day. He produced a ticket that would leave in a few hours to Cerbère. I had a couple hours to enjoy in Barcelona before I headed up north. I decided to hang at a bar/restaurant close to the train. It was literally across the street and I immediately started off on the wrong foot. My bag was laden w clothes and souvenirs so I was pushing maximum density. I was in the way of so many things and I bumped into them all whilst trying to buy some cigs. The owner said, ‘oh senior!’ I hastily made my way for the door but he understood what I was doing. After selecting a table, I soon had a beer and a pack of Lucky Strikes at my table. I wrote several posties in the hour or so I had until the train.

The one thing about Barcelona is that it is by the sea, so a breeze is ever present. This breeze is helpful to determine your location in the city. I discovered this fact too late after wandering around for several hours. I could never figure out Barcelona as well as I did Madrid, I was constantly lost and back tracked more than once. When the breeze hits you in the face, you are walking south.

 

Once aboard the train, it started to rain. Luck was on my side, I had made a wise choice. I really had two options: stay in Barcelona and head to Andorra or train to Paris. Since it was raining, I feel I made the right choice. It was amazing watching the rain fall from the train. We made several stops and eventually I fell asleep. I awoke just in time to see the border between Spain and France.

I tell you, if ever I find myself in Spain, I shall head for Barcelona and train it to the northeast. I saw amazing towns that were on the cliffs. They were literally right off the water. I saw boats at the ready to head for fish from the sea. This is the way to live, methinks.

Whilst on my journey northwards, I watched the rain and fell asleep. It was so peaceful on the train. I had a neighbor who recognized that I was American. He made conversation about the Lakers and the NBA in general. I tried to talk to him as best I could but I failed. He said he was from Cerbère but he moved to Spain as he felt more Spanish than French. Cerbère was a border town so I can see how one would want to pick sides. We rapped as best we could in our lack of language. I knew just enough Spanish to figure out the gist of what he was saying and he knew just enough English to understand my replies. We had a moment where we looked at each other and knew we were sports fans, basketball fans. He had to leave so he looked at me and grabbed my checks and said, ‘trie  bien.’’ He knew that this was the one time he would talk to an American as I knew this was my one time talking w a real Spaniard. One of the best train rides I had on this voyage.

I arrived in France around 5 pm. We had about 20 in to pee and other things before the connecting train left for Paris. I ran into a train employee named Boris. He advised me to just wait until everyone checked in before I did. I used this time to change and ended up leaving my doforitrecords shirt in the bathroom at the train station. I was pushing maximum density in my backpack.

I had to haggle with the French ticket lady. We both didn’t understand each other so we did lots of pointing. It turned out to be way cheap to travel by train so I had to fork over some change. This took about 3 minutes to negotiate as we had a mediator who barely understood either language. Once we knew that I had to have some coins so as to make exact change, I soon had a ticket. Turned out to be around 20€ for the trip. This was for a 6 bunk sleeper. I didn’t realize it at first but I had to open my compartment each time another rider joined which lasted throughout the night. I thought I had it all in my 6 bunk world. We were given dinner which consisted of Twix 2 packing and water. It was enough for this section of the journey. The trains slow progress lulled me to sleep quickly.

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