On Thursday, July 30th I set off from Barcelona, Spain to Aix-en-Provence, France. Not the easiest spot to get to: it involved 2 trains and a bus. Well, actually, 3 trains and a bus - and walking.... It was a bit of an adventure that I wrote about in detail in my journal (when one is on the train, there is a lot of time to write....) - but here are some highlights:
- survived the "pigeon poop scam" on my way to get me to the commuter train that would get me to the station where my train would depart Barcelona from... it goes like this: guys pelt you with something (muddy water? tea and oatmeal?) then come to rescue you from the pigeon poop which at this point is all over you (or, in my case, my pack)... they seem genuine enough until they try to help you off with your pack.... uh, no thanks
- with that, and then a track platform change on the commuter train, my time cushion was eaten up and I got my train from Barcelona to Montpellier with 7 minutes to spare... that's actually not bad with a train, but a bit too close to comfort for me
- passport control into France was interesting, as we pulled out of the border station, saw a guy cursing loudly and shaking his head... probably no passport?
- Saw a girl so addicted to her iPod that she stood in the toilet of the 2nd class compartment for at least 30 minutes charging her device using the razor plug (it was a hold-your-breath facility, so I really think she was nuts!)
- upon arrival in Montepellier I met my first pay toilet of this trip... but it was .50E! But it was clean and almost pleasant after the train loo.
- there was 1st class available on the leg from Montpellier to Marseille, which I took and aside of the larger seats, I wondered if it was worth the few extra Euros.... but the loo was mucho better, so, yeah, it's worth it...
Most guide books and web info tell you to take the train from Barcelona to Marseille via Narbonne, but I found that going via Montpellier was about 2 hours faster: a shorter wait between trains, and I think my 2nd train was a high speed one...On a train platform in Marseille.... so immediately French!
Finally, off the trains, just one bus and a walk to go....
- at Marseille, got confused and conflicting directions on where to find the bus to Aix, so wandered around for ages with my heavy pack in the heat..... (why exactly did I want a pack instead of a rolling suitcase? someone remind me....)the bus itself was awesome, cool and took only about 30 minutes
- All I had to do then was phone the guy who was going to let me into the apartment and walk about 5-10 minutes.... but my stupid Spanish phone did not work, the pay phones would not accept my credit cards, and I could not convince anyone (shop owners, people on the streets) to let me make 1 single short local phone call.... sheesh!
- Finally arrived at the building, but no one was going to let me in until I telephoned the guy to come.... regrouped.... and to make a long story short (believe me, it is longer) found a kind woman in a children's clothing shop who let me call and I left a voice mail (being almost an hour later than was anticipated)... the shop lady came out a few minutes later to say Monseiur had called and he would be there in 10 minutes - triumph!!!