So this weekend me and Sam went about sorting out a few things for our European tour. It's been very productive but at the same time very stressful, and now we really know what we're up against. It's like being an astronaut floating above earth. Everything looks beautiful. The distances between places seem tiny. There's no need to worry about money, travel or accommodation; you can just sit back and admire.
Well I hate to use the cliché, but we have certainly been brought back down to earth a bit.
Ok, I just read back what I've written so far and that sounds VERY DRAMATIC, it's actually not that bad. In fact, in some aspects things have been better than we imagined, but in others there have been some minor setbacks.
Firstly, the good news. We've booked our hostels for our first three nights in Madrid!!!!!!!! On our first night we will be staying at the Hostal Oliver, a hostel right in the centre of Madrid (the Puerta del Sol area) which is only 50m away from most of the main attractions in the city centre. It has only cost us about £30 for both of us for that night and has great facilities, including FREE WIFI!!! It has pretty decent reviews too. Here is the page for it on HostelWorld, the website we're using to look at hostels: http://www.hostelworld.com/hosteldetails.php/Hostal-Oliver/Madrid/26990?sc_sau=prfs&sc_pos=1
I also thought I'd try and add a picture on here seeing as I'm gonna have to get used to that while we're away! So here is a satellite image of Madrid city centre with our hostel marked:
Wow that was easy! That took me like 10 seconds!
Anyway, so we'll be staying there for the first night, and for the next two nights we will be staying at a hostel called University Club (LOL), which is also located very centrally. Its reviews are a bit worse and it looks a bit shabbier, but it will do. It cost us roughly the same as the other one, and it also has internet! For both of these hostels we're getting twin private rooms, just so that we know we'll be secure and also to ease ourselves into the process of staying in this type of accommodation. This is the link for University Club: http://www.hostelworld.com/hosteldetails.php/University-Club/Madrid/16662?sc_sau=prfs&sc_pos=20
You may be wondering why we didn't book Hostal Oliver for all three nights, and the reason is strange. For some reason, University Club was the only hostel that had rooms available for the second night (which is Friday 25th May). Everywhere else was fully booked for that night. We didn't know if it was just because people we coming to Madrid for the weekend or if there was some kind of event going on. But at least we found somewhere I suppose, we might have had to resort to being hobos on only the second night!
HostelWorld is a brilliant website, it's very easy to use and we'll be relying on it while we're out there. Sam has the app for it on his iPhone and it'll be very easy to manage all our bookings on it. We checked out hostels in some of the other places we're planning on visiting too, and it's all very positive. The prices are good, the hostels have good reviews... so in general, everything's fine on the accommodation front.
So here comes the bad news... our travel is FUUUUUUUUUUUCKED.
That was the simple way of putting it and the one that gave me the most satsifaction; the reality is that things are going to be a lot more complicated than we anticipated.
If you read my last post you'll know that we'll be travelling by train pretty much all of the time using our InterRail tickets. In fact, I'm going to quote my last blog post at this point: "We have InterRail tickets for the duration of our journey, meaning that we can travel ANYWHERE by train in Europe with just those tickets, so this is how we will be getting around."
LOL, it's funny how easy I made it seem. I also mentioned that for certain trains (specifically high speed trains,sleeper trains, trains crossing country borders and generally any trains in Spain and Italy) you have to reserve your seats before you travel, despite having the InterRail tickets. This didn't seem like much of a problem; all the websites that we looked on seemed to say that you could just turn up at the train station on the day, reserve your seats at the ticket office and then go.
Although this may be possible in some cases, this idea is looking increasingly unlikely. I checked out our journey between Spain and Italy on some train websites - I checked it about a month ago and I found a sleeper train going direct from Barcelona to Milan, which was perfect - however it's FULLY BOOKED.
My reaction: HOW CAN IT BE FULLY BOOKED?!?!?!?!?!?! THE TRAIN DOESN'T LEAVE FOR A MONTH AND A HALF! WHAT THE FUCK! WHAT KIND OF MOTHERFUCKER BOOKS A TRAIN THAT FAR IN ADVANCE?! D#DFGJEOKRGER#'GRLG[PFOGV[PEKVG[PEJAROPGJ!
After calming myself down, I researched other options. However, only one train company does direct trains between Spain and Italy, and all of the other options involved making about 7 or 8 changes in random stations in France, with overall journey times of about 24 hours. Ridiculous!
I got on the phone to Sam and we decided that rather than wasting a whole day on that part of our journey, we will stop off somewhere in the south of France. That way, we get to enjoy ourselves for half a day in France amongst the travelling, and we will just arrive in Italy a day later.
Throughout the weekend, the whole reservation situation with InterRail made us think a lot. What if we try to reserve trains when we're in Spain and Italy but they are all fully booked? How will we get around? We found out that it is possible to reserve some of our trains now and get our tickets in the post, but this completely went against the whole idea of getting an InterRail ticket. We wanted the freedom to travel when we want, on a whim if necessary, where we want and without worrying about missing trains, and yet if we reserved trains then we would be limiting ourselves.
So this has been the main decision we had to make: should we play it safe and make sure we go everywhere that we planned by booking now, or should we take our chances and keep our options open?
In the end we decided for the latter. We figured that for domestic trains (just those travelling within a country), they should be more frequent than international trains and therefore we should be able to reserve seats while we're there. Even if it means reserving seats for a train a few days before we get it rather than on the actual day, that still gives us much more freedom than booking them NOW. And anyway, whatever happens, we'll get by. We might have to take longer routes to places, we might have to stay in a place longer than we planned. We might even have to travel by another means of transport. In the end, we'll never be completely stuck. And if we do get in trouble, in Spain at least, I have an encyclopedic knowledge of Spanish swear words that will see us through the toughest of times.
Here's me contemplating suicide after the train incident...
So that pretty much sums up the current situation! I don't even know how I've had the time to do all this shit amongst revision. I guess I'll update again soon, or the next time something goes wrong.
Oh my god, I've spent waaaaaay too long writing this blog. I SHOULD BE DOING REVISION. Fuck!
Jack - 29/04/12 - 21:30