In July 2012 I took an Interail pass, my passport, and a rucksack with some things in it, around Europe. I visited Barcelona, Montpellier, Zurich, Vienna, Prague, Berlin, Amsterdam, and Paris. I was in Barcelona with friends but the rest I did on my own. I was away for 24 days from 2nd July – 25th July.
Part 1 – My trip to Barcelona
Train travel is largely stress free. A small passport control bit and an x-ray of your bags and that’s it. And turning up just 45 minutes before departure time is more than enough. Pretty good too, as I live 15 minutes from the station.
There were three trains for me to take on Monday – Eurostar from London to Paris, then a French train from Paris to Figueres, and lastly Figueres to Barcelona. Leave London 7:30, leave Paris 14:07, arrive in Barcelona 21:45. Upon arrival I would make my way to the flat my friends had booked.
I slept most of the way on the Eurostar and arrived in Paris a little more awake than before, though still tired. I was at Gare Du Nord. I decided to walk to Gare De Lyon so that I could see what was between the stations. I had 3 hours to kill. Hotel De Sully caught my attention and I thought it would be nice to see it again in more detail when I eventually visit Paris at the very end of my trip.
At Gare De Lyon concourse I see an exit archway that looked like it was the one from the film ‘Amelie’ where she discovers the identity of the man (no spoilers here I hope). I don’t know if this is the case and haven’t looked it up. I think it would be easy to look it up right now but I’d rather like it to be confirmed or disconfirmed by someone else, for some bizarre reason.
I wait around and then board the train. There are a lot of English speaking people on the train. A few from the UK and some from Australia. They talked and I was way to tired to chime in, but I listened. The couple from the UK were retired. The man, in his younger days, flew everywhere for his work. When he retired he decided never to fly again, much to the annoyance of his wife. So he takes the train everywhere, which obviously restricts the countries they can visit within certain time frame, and entire oceans separating the locations. Rather amusingly, their son is a captain on British Airways, and so they can get free flights to anywhere, anytime they wanted to. The woman occasionally made use of that perk, but her husband never does.
The Australians… I don’t remember much of what they were doing. Just travelling around Europe. They were flying to Rome after Barcelona, and then into the rest of Europe. I later found out that this is a popular route for non-European travellers to take.
The change at Figueres was just a change from a French operated train to a Spanish operated train. This is a scheduled change that has operated for years and the Spanish train always waits for the French train (and visa versa and within reason). There’s a new high speed direct line from Paris to Barcelona opening at the end of 2012, so after that there’ll no need to make this change.
Arriving at Barcelona I didn’t have much to go on except and address and the memory of which Metro station I needed. I navigated my way there without too much trouble and met up with my chums who were already in full holiday mode. They had arrived early afternoon and had already been to the beach. It was great to see them and it put me in a good holiday mood. The rest of the evening was spent trying to find a place to eat. We walked around for ages and ended up at a shitty place that we had been recommended to stay away from. But it was the only place left open and we were super hungry.
It was shit.
Off to see some Gaudi. Gaudi is an architect who is famous for at least three things that he designed in Barcelona. There may be more but we only saw three of them and I haven’t even bothered to find out if there are more, even though wikipedia is right there.
The facts I shall write off the top of my head, but I’ll link it to a page later on with some more reliable facts with references and such.
The first place we went to was some sort of church. I’d remember the name of it if I had repeated it enough times, but I only heard it about three times and I didn’t say it aloud so don’t remember it. It’s the really famous one everyone goes to see in Barcelona. You know, the one that hasn’t been completed yet in 170(?) years and won’t be finished for another 75(?). The entire building is built from the same stone but due to its age some parts look different – cleaner and newer – than other parts. So you can tell which are the recent bits and which parts have been there for years. It’s pretty impressive, I must admit. At first glance the towers look like they’re melting.
Second place is an apartment block that he built, I would assume for people to live in. But it’s way too interesting for that, so it’s now a museum. I didn’t go in but the architect and the iPad (in-joke) did. The rest of us went to the beach, where the architect and the iPad later joined us.
We were at the beach for about 7 hours. Unbroken sunshine and nice and breezy the whole time. I got a little sun-burnt. Others got a lot sun-burnt. I didn’t have any swimming stuff with me so I went in with my trousers on, but later, to dry off, I took them off as well and just wore my briefs. I’m not a fan of spending excessive amounts of time at the beach. I’m much more of an explorer. I like to come across things naturally, those moments that are unplanned, which is why I only ever do a loose day to day plan. This is something that comes up throughout my trip away – a loose plan for the day and then seeing what happens when I attempt to follow it. There are good and bad days. More on that later.
In the evening we went out looking for somewhere to drink and dance. We found a place but I don’t remember the name of it. It was empty, just us and few others. We had the dancefloor to ourselves and I think we all had a lot of fun.
More fucking Gaudi, this time a park called Park Güell, designed by Gaudi. I recently re-watched Vicky Christina Barcelona, there’s a scene where two of the characters bump into each other at the fountain in that picture, but there were barely any tourists in the film. This place was full of tourists. It was very fucking hot and it was up a fucking hill. It was pretty nice though but I wonder what it would be like in the Winter. After that we went to the beach again. This time we got a parasol because we were already burnt. Then later in the evening we went out for dinner at a vegetarian restaurant called Sesamo. Food was delicious and we spoke to the owner who was a really cool dude indeed.
We had to pack up ready to leave the next morning. I’m glad I did all my packing that night because I definitely wasn’t in the mood the next morning. We reflected on our holiday in Barcelona. My friends prepared themselves for a journey back home and I prepared myself for the journey I had ahead of me. I was going to places I’d never been before, places that spoke languages I didn’t speak and people I didn’t know. I was excited if a little apprehensive.
And off they went to the airport leaving me alone to my own thoughts, my own devices, my own-some. I went to Barcelona Sants and caught the train to Montpellier via Figeures. It was an uneventful journey through Spanish and French countryside and it was pretty lovely.
Overall, I liked Barcelona quite a lot. It’s bigger than I thought and there’s a lot there to interest me, though if you asked me what those things are I don’t think I’d be able to tell you. So I’d like to return and see some more of it, perhaps spend some time sitting at a cafe instead of the beach, although the beach being there is nice if I go back there with people who like the beach. I like the beach too, just not for too long.
Next time… Montpellier.