Cock and Bull Stories

The adventures of a 20 year old student traveling around Europe.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Barcelona / Travel Marathon

My Barcelona trip can be summed up into one phrase, “well, at least things couldn’t get any worse, right?!” More on that later…

Our Barcelona trip started off with a 8:30am on Friday departure from our dorms to catch an early train that would get us into Barcelona around noon on Saturday. We decided to do this so that we could evade paying for a night in a hostel on Friday. The train we took was really nice though. We got a sleeper cabin which consisted of 6 beds stacked 3 high on each side and made ourselves comfortable. After a while hanging out on the bottom level of the cabin, the ticket guy came by and made the 2 people in our group that didn’t have reservations for a sleeper car move to second class. After a few more hours sticking our heads out the window, getting told by the conductor to be quiet and other good old fashion train fun, we got a descent nights sleep in hopes of blue skies and warm water.

After arriving into Barcelona it took us a good while to figure out where we were going but after wandering around for a while, we stumbled upon our shady little hostel just off the main tourist street called La Rambla (translated means street with shops on both sides). After settling into our hostel, the group split in two: those who wanted to go to the beach and those who wanted to walk around the city. I was in the latter.

Before had even got to Barcelona, I had heard all sorts of stories about street performers, illegal gambling and pick pockets all over the tourist section of the city and boy were they right. I don’t think I walked more than 20 feet before I ran into another person all dressed up wanting money for pictures. There were some really creative ones too from a guy sitting on a toilet pretending to be going at his business to people betting money on the old ‘where is the ball’ game. Speaking of that game, the guys who ran it were so fast and sneaky, it was incredible. As I was walking by, I took a second to gander at what was going on and before I knew it, I was right in the middle of the action. As one guy bet on one of the three boxes and lost, the, lets call him, ninja, asked me to turn over the box. I reached for it thinking it was just for fun and the next thing I knew he is bantering me to bet money so I can win. Before I knew it, I gave the ninja 10 EURO, flipped the box that I 100% knew the ball was in and LOST! In the midst of the confusion of giving him money, the ninja switched the boxes and got me. I always thought that I would never get caught up in these games but the ninja was just so fast and cleaver. It just goes to show you, no matter how careful and sly you think you are, eventually, someone will get you.

So after bitching and moaning for a good half hour while Dustin, Cesar and myself walked around the city we stopped by the beach for a minute and surprisingly, saw our female friends…topless. After an awkward moment and a beer from guys walking up and down the beach selling them, we headed off to check out some sights. Our sights this day included two cathedrals, plenty of fountains/parks, a trip to the official Picasso museum and finally a stop at a bar on the sidewalk for some genuine sangria which was amazing. Two pitchers later, we made our way back to the hostel to meet up with our group and get ready to eat dinner and experience the infamous Barcelona night life.

After having some of the world’s greatest paella, we all walked down to the club district and bounced around for a while. While dancing in one of the discos, Tony started dancing with these two girls and, following his wishes, we left him there as we went next door for a change of scenery. After about an hour hanging out there waiting for Tony, we headed out knowing he is fully capable of making it home. As the majority of the group headed home for some sleep around 3:00am, Janine and I decided to try and find this one club that our friend Gavin back in Metz recommended.

After an hour or two of searching/ wandering/ eating a little late night snack, we ran into Tony looking mighty flustered walking with an Irish guy that he met. It turned out that after Tony was done dancing with the two girls, he went looking for us up and down the club strip for a good half an hour and sometime in that time, he got pick pocketed so we headed back to the hostel to cancel some credit cards. Luckily he wasn’t carrying his passport or Euro Rail pass so it wasn’t too big of a deal after we got everything canceled.

On the next day, we all got what the hostel calls ‘breakfast’, aka, some corn flakes, milk, one 3 ounce juice box and some bread that could have broken a window. After I chowed down on my cereal from a small plastic cup, we headed out toward the ‘La Sangrada Familia’; a castle that has been under construction for over 100 years and STILL isn’t close to completion. We were planning on going up to the top but after noticing we had to pay 8 EURO to get in and another 2 in order to climb the big spires, we said, ‘screw that’, and I headed toward the beach for some fun in the topless sun.

After trying to spy out waves that had potential to get 3 second surf rides, I played in the water for a while, took a nap and next thing I knew, it was time for us to start heading back to the hostel, pack up and head to the train station in hopes of getting home at 3pm on Sunday.

After we arrived at the train we intended on taking, we were unpleasantly surprised to find out that we could not just use our rail pass but actually had to buy reservations. We weren’t to upset since they usually only cost 1.50 EURO but this time, they cost about 60! Since there was another train the next morning that we could use our pass on that would get us into Metz around 9pm, we didn’t worry about it and made our way to the other train station to buy Cesar a ticket for it only to find out that that train was booked SOLID. We couldn’t even buy a ticket for regular price and the only other option for us to get home was to take a total of 4 trains that would eventually get us into Metz at 9:30am on MONDAY, only a half hour before our first class started.

So needing a place to stay, we decided to go to a 'remote' beach and sleep...sounded like a good idea at the time, right? After we walked through was was obviously part of the Barcelona ghetto, we made it to this beach next to what looked like a corn field and set up camp. When we got to the beach we noticed that there was some sort of fishing competition going on up and down the beach for a good half mile. We sat, watched the fishing as we froze our asses off in the 50 degree weather and 15 mph winds (who would have thought that a beach that was 85 in the morning would be 60 at night!?).

After the fishing thing was done, we all tried to shiver ourselfes to sleep for a few hours only to be waken up by the loud rumbling and smashing metal of the beach combers. When we saw this thing turn the corner onto the beach, Chantly freaked so hard that he practically pulled the sheet right out from under both Dustin and Cesar. After our scamble not to get run over, the beach comber drove down the beach casually to go park I think. After our nerves calmed down ANOTHER beach comber came to scare the shit out of us and then a THIRD! The third guy, definetly realizing that we shouldn't really be on the beach at 4:00 sleeping started combing this 100 yard section of beach for no reason, probably just to piss us off. After we clearned the dust out of our noses, everyone got another hour or so of siezure enducing shivering then we headed out to the train station to make the first leg of our journey.

After getting yelled at by some dude who worked at the train station for sleeping, I hopped aboard the train but found out later that this train was so old and decrepit that it couldn't even make it up the hill to the next station so we had to switch trains.

After that histeric mess we finshed up that leg and took 40 minutes in a nice pictureque train station in the heart of whatever mountain range is in SW France. 3 or 4 hours later, we arrived in Tolouse, France with exitement since we had gotten bumped up to first class. Usually, first class on a trian just means that you get a tiny bit more room but on this train, it meant we got leather recliners, plug outlets, nice tables, a 'cell phone' area and not to mention, only 5 other people. Needless to say, we overtook some of the little cabins and got what little sleep we could after finishing up some Thermo-dynamics homework. 8 hours later we arrived in Paris at midnight, 15 minutes after the last train to Metz. Fortunatly, we found a 24 hour resturaunt/bar, ordered some food, played cards and did some serious loitering for about 4 and a half hours before the train station opened back up.

With only one eye open, we boarded our final leg of the trip at 6:50am to Metz. After 3 hours and an encounter with the train natzi named Fabrice we arrived in Metz, took the bus and got to class at 10:04 (one minute before the start). As we entered class, Dr. McFall, our professor, asked, "So who had something stolen in Barcelona?" After some histerical laughter from the group, Tony told him what happened and he responded, "yeah, no one ever goes to Barcelona without SOMETHING getting stolen." Great, thanks teach....

After sitting in our own filth for another hour and a half, I headed home for the greatest shower of my life followed by my first real meal in 4 days.

All in all, this trip was a textbook example of learning the hard way. Lets recap what lessons we learned this weekend:

1. ALWAYS make train reservations. I mean...there are only 1.50 EURO for christ sake. How cheap can you be!
2. NEVER talk to street performers beacuse they WILL take your money.
3. NEVER dance with random girls in Barcelona because they WILL take your money.

and last but not least....

4. ALWAYS wear dark sunglasses.

Next weekend: Much needed relaxing weekend with the Parents on a quint travel around to maybe Hidelburg, Staosburg, Metz, etc...

Till next time, au revoir!


At 12:32 PM, Blogger Annie (Swelgin) said...

Oh you poor thing!!! It's such a bummer that you had to endure all that, while you are out in France and Barcelona and hanging out with your friends having a good time. No, I really feel sorry for you :)

Just kidding that does sound like an interesting way to learn a few lessons though :)

Hope you keep on having fun and no more train problems :)

Annie (Swelgin)

At 11:00 PM, Blogger Drew said...

Patty, welcome to traveling in Europe man! Couple of things: If you go anywhere on a train and you'll be there for a couple of days, just go straight to the ticket booth after you get off the train on the way there and get your plans set for leaving. Also, I didn't find this out until halfway through our trip in Italy, your Eurail is valid for free entry onto any of the regular, non-speedy(don't remember exactly what their called) trains so long as they go where you want them too (the catch is that sometimes the fast ones are the only way to go). There is a symbol in the train schedule book that signifies whether you need reservations to get on or not. We paid 45 Euros to go from Florence, Italy to Interlaken, Switzerland (an 8 hour ride) but only paid 5 Euros to go from Interlaken to Barcelona (a 12 hour ride) because of the type of train we took, and on the cheap train they never checked our tickets. Another tip I learned - Europe is so expensive that it's best to grab some stuff from the grocery store on the way to the hostel and plan to make sandwiches for lunch/dinner, unless you're going to splurge and get a culturally rich meal at a europeanly high price. Thanks for the update, good luck with that Thermo!


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