26 January 2013

¡Hola España!

So I just moved over 360 miles across the French/Spanish border with over half my body weight in tow and I FEEL IT. Our (mine, Lauren's and Gareth's) journey started last Saturday with a bus from Aix-en-Provence to Marseille and then a train from Marseille to Montpellier. I'd wanted to see Montpellier for a while, but rain and over thirty kilos of my life spread over three separate bags meant I just wasn't in the mood for anything too strenuous. We found a nice little restaurant, which was probably about the most French place I'd been since I began my time in France (on my last night, too!) so I ordered something I thought was particularly French and overpriced; a €22 filet de boeuf. It was worth every penny but with some sort of disgusting alien growth on my lower eyelid (it was a sty, ladies and gentlemen), I just wasn't digging the evening very much at all. I got myself an early night in preparation for a 6am start to catch our 7.30am train to Tarragona the next day.

I thought it was just going to be plain old smooth sailing; get to the train station, wait for the platform to be announced, flash the ticket and away we go... but of course not. I was forgetting I was still in France. Our direct train from Montpellier to Tarragona, which we organised the rest of the travel around in order to have the least amount of hassle on the day of arrival, was due to leave at 7.30am. I was complacent, happily sitting on my suitcase with my vending machine-bought waffle, waiting to know my platform number when all of a sudden the muffled, nonchalant drone of une femme française sounds over the tannoy, repeating something about a "change of journey" and that passengers for "such-and-such a train" had to proceed directly to the bus station. This was fifteen minutes before our train was due to leave; none of us were familiar with Montpellier and immediate panic set in. I was tired and my anxiety spiked, so I was of no use whatsoever and sat back down on my suitcase (after pretty much lapping the foyer of the train station, eyes wide and mouth agape like a fish fresh out of water) and cried.

A (what seemed to be) nice French lady holding a coffee came up to me and asked me why I was crying and I explained it was because I didn't know where the bus station was and that we apparently had to find it because our train was going to leave from there (??? exactly, I didn't know either at this point), to which she simply replied "OK" and walked off. I thought she was going to tell me everything would be all right and direct me towards the bus station so I didn't have to worry, but no. Once again I was, of course, expecting too much of the French. They love to ask questions and hate to provide solutions.

Eventually, with the combined efforts of Lauren, an Australian family and a few mumblings of a toothless tramp posing as a help desk official, we found the bus station and learnt that our train had in fact been cancelled and would be replaced by a five hour-long bus journey through the Pyrenees. I didn't think I could get any more livid, until I learned that our train had in fact been cancelled because, in true French fashion, the drivers had decided to strike. What a way to say goodbye, eh? Although once again, what else should I have expected?

I don't think I need to go into too much detail about the journey, because everybody's been on a bus, but anybody who knows me well, knows that I do NOT get on with public transport (read: I despise it). I know that the train is public transport, but at least it's comfortable and noisy enough in itself to drown out the incessant tinny backlash of somebody's too-loud Nicki Minaj. There's also toilets so you can pee whenever you want without tearing through Perpignan bus station in floods of tears because you just can't hold it any longer, without any luck (cue another two hour wait until we stop at Figueres service station).

Alas, at the end of it all, I'm here! If a little bit worse for wear. I spent the first few days nursing a poorly eye and trying to hide it so as to not put people off their food/life, as well as attempting to get my muscles to pull themselves back together after being shredded apart on a much too long journey to Spain. We've found a place to live (pictures soon, when we move in/acquire internet) and I only hope that this hacking cough and chest pains will disappear before tomorrow when I have to lug my life back up the hill to the Casc Antic part of Tarragona. My immune system has never taken such a beating from stress before and I hope it never will again.

¡Hasta luego!
P.s. sorry there are no photographs on this update, I'll probably do a huge photo dump of what I've been doing when I can.


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