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Friday, 8 June 2012

In Transit

Hello everyone!

We are currently in a fast food restaurant in Lyon, France - we made it! Not only does this place do the best unhealthy food around, it has free wifi too. C'est parfait.

We've done SHIT LOADS of travelling today. We left Barcelona at 12.20am and we got to Lyon at 18.50am, with two changes in between. We are fucking knackered and we're going to try and sleep at the train station tonight, if we don't get moved on. There is also a mini police station in the train station, so if they see us hanging around they might be a tiny bit suspicious.

This should be fun.

I'm not sure how much longer we're going to be able to use this wifi, so I think I better get started on the post. So here is what has happened today...


This morning I got up at 9.30am fresh and ready to take on the world after having a generous three hours sleep. This is the happy, government-approved, child-friendly version of events.

But basically I was fucking DEAD.

You may recall from the last post that Sam still hadn't got back to the hostel by 5.30am (LOL) so I didn't know where he was.

I hoped he wouldn't come back, but unfortunately he was there when I woke up. He started talking to the other guy in the hostel and suddenly they were having this great, in-depth conversation. What the fuck? I said like two words to him after being with him all night, Sam was with him for like two seconds and managed to strike up a whole fucking conversation.

Anyway, the guy left and I got out of bed. Breakfast finished at 10am, so because there wasn't much time I decided to have a shower after breakfast, and I headed downstairs. Again it was the fucking amazing super all-inclusive deluxe continental breakfast, featuring a small baguette and a muffin. Exactly what I needed after going A WHOLE FUCKING NIGHT WITHOUT EATING.

I got back to the room, had a shower and me and Sam packed up all of our stuff. We checked out of the hostel at about 11am, and then headed to the nearby supermarket to get some food for the journey. We got bread, yoghurts, two peaches, four bananas, some crisps and some biscuits. Pretty balanced I thought. Two of our five-a-day of fruit and vegetables, two of our five-a-day of FATTY GOODNESS.

We were cutting it a bit fine to get our train though. It left Barcelona Sants train station at 12:22pm, and we were getting on at the tube station nearest our hostel at about 11:25am. To get between the two stations it generally takes about 30 minutes, and we also had to find which platform we were on and go through all the security shit.

Luckily, this bit went really well. We walked VERY fast and found our platform quickly, so we were in the train around 10 minutes before it left. Efficiency defined.

Just to give you an outline of our journey today, we had to make two changes. Our first journey was from Barcelona to Figueras (in north-eastern Spain, close to the border of France) which took two hours, Figueras to Montpellier (southern France) which also took about two hours, and then Montpellier to Lyon (eastern France) which, you guessed it, took about two hours.

After we'd got settled on the train, we started talking to a guy called Stephan from San Diego (California). We were in a four-seater and he was sitting opposite us, so it was pretty cool because usually this kind of seating arrangement becomes that awkward moment when you cannot look directly forward without making eye contact with the stranger in front of you. If you don't know what I mean, see the post 'Welcome to Granada'... it is the perfect example.

We talked about what we were all doing, where we're from, all of the usual traveller speak. He then offered us these All-Bran breakfast-cake-things (an English brand!!! Ah we're saved!) which we accepted... it was too good an offer to turn down, especially when you've been surviving on breadcrumbs from the night before.


When you've been living off stuff with such plain flavours you really appreciate how good shit like that tastes. At this point you don't care if the flavours are artificial and full of crap; you just appreciate how FUCKING TASTY they are.

In return, we gave him one of our yoghurts seeing as we got a 4-pack, which he accepted. This is one of the great things about meeting people when you are travelling... you both have the same needs and therefore you help each other as best you can. Whether it's giving them directions, lending them a towel or giving them a fucking yoghurt, if you can help someone then you do, in the knowledge that they would do the same for you if the situation were reversed.

Also in the little section of our carriage were two other travellers, Romain and Natael, who were from Québec (Canada). They joined into our conversation, and quickly it became an interesting forum about all things to do with Barcelona, student finance, surfing, accents, language in general and plenty more.

I really enjoyed this experience. All of the train journeys so far had just been about plugging into my musical abyss and looking out the window, trying to avoid eye contact with anyone else around us. It was such a refreshing change to hear about other peoples lives and experiences and to discuss stuff using the widely-ranging perspectives that were on offer. How often does this happen in everyday life? Not very, which is another reason why this trip can be so beneficial.

When the train reached Figueras, we said our goodbyes - Stephan was heading for Paris and the other two were heading for somewhere in the south of France.

Our train to Montpellier was meant to be leaving in about 20 minutes - we just had to find it first.

As we got off, we saw a train in the platform right next to us. We didn't really want to go down the steps to the main station area to find out what platform our train was on, only to find that it was the one right next to us, so we showed out tickets so a man on the platform. It was our train! So useful and saved us unnecessary stress.

In this train we were in a two-seater in a quiet carriage... so as you can imagine we didn't really have the same experience as we'd had in the last train. I listened to music for pretty much the whole journey and Sam caught up on sleep after not sleeping hardly at all last night. I WISH I COULD FUCKING SLEEP ON TRAINS.

The announcements were fucking annoying on this train. First of all they went on forever because each one was said in English, French and Spanish (as I was listening to music, this got irratating when there were announcements faintly in the background for a whole  ong...), and secondly the driver's accent was so bad that I could understand the French and Spanish better than the English. Seriously, if there were English people on that train that didn't speak these other languages, they wouldn't have had a clue what to do in an emergency.

Just had a thought, maybe that was what the driver intended?!

Anyway, during this journey... WE SAW CLOUDS. Lots of them. It was actually overcast for most of the time.

We've been so used to constant sunshine that it was a bit strange seeing anything other than this. I guess you must be used to it in England though........ just saying!

The view out of the window was quite good, obviously it would have looked more attractive in sunshine, but it was still quite interesting. I think we passed a couple of castles, some amazing lakes and a few other bits. I might have taken some photos to show you but I didn't want to wake Sam up to get his iPhone.

The train arrived in Montpellier at about 4pm. I don't know if I said about it in a previous post, but when we booked these trains in Barcelona, we couldn't reserve tickets from Montpellier to Lyon because no part of the journey was in Spain. However, trains between these two destinations are very frequent, so we knew we'd be able to manage it once we got to Montpellier.

So we headed straight for the ticket area, where we had to wait in a queue for about 20 or 25 minutes. The woman who served us knew a bit of English, so it was easy enough to book our tickets using the InterRail. Our train that we reserved seats for was leaving in about 25 minutes, so we headed down for the platform and it was already there waiting. Easy.

This journey was AMAZING. Sam was asleep again, so he missed it, but the landscape and things that we passed were incredible. The sun came out again and I saw why so many people love the south of France. It reminded me quite a bit of Spain actually in terms of what the buildings looked like and how they were organised, but it was generally much greener. I saw some quaint little villages and a nice castle, and in general it was one of the best train journeys of the trip so far for me.

As we approached Lyon it clouded over big time though,and when we got off it was raining quite heavily. Lucky that we've been staying inside the whole time I guess!

So this was the most complicated and worrying part of today... we had to book our tickets to Venice for tomorrow.

We had no idea about availability of tickets and whether we could even book such a long distance journey from the station. This is such a significant part of our trip that we were just hoping for the best.

We had to wait 25 minutes in the queue before seeing someone. When we did, I asked her if she spoke English, and she said a little. However, the difficulty came when she didn't understand what Venice was. What the fuck? At first, I'd said 'a train to Venice' and she got confused; I then tried to use some French but she just had a bewildered look on her face. I tried to explain to her where it was, but she cut me off and said she couldn't understand, and said that we should wait for the other ticket seller because she spoke better English (there were only two desks open and yet the queue was fucking massive...). So she had a word with the other seller to tell her that we would be next because we'd been at the front of the queue.

It took a fucking millenium for this new saleswoman to finish dealing with her client she had at the time. It appeared that there was a mistake with the tickets she'd just been given, and it was a bit annoying because it also seemed like they were having a casual chat at the same time while there were like a million people waiting, including us. This didn't bode well.

Finally, she finished about 15 minutes since we'd been waiting. THANK FUCK.

She said hello to us (good start!) and asked us what we needed. I started to explain, but she stopped me and told me that I needed to speak more slowly (ah, shit). So I explained to her that we needed to get to Venice tomorrow, and that we had InterRail passes, which we showed to her. She said that these kind of trains are difficult to book only a day in advance, especially seeing as InterRail pass holders only have a limited amount of seats on these trains, but she would check and try her best.

We were starting to see her in a different light. She was patient, understanding, and actually looked like she had the will to live, which was better than most of the ticket people we have dealt with on the trip so far.

She showed us the route we would have to take - Lyon to Chambery (a random place in France), Chambery to Milan and then Milan to Venice. She said that she knew the first journey would be available and would also be free for us (yay!) because it was a local train, however she didn't know what would happen with the other journeys.

She typed in the date, the time and the journeys, and set us as being InterRail pass holders.

Nothing available.


What would we do? What if we couldn't get into Italy for a while? And we had nowhere to stay in Lyon!! Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.

She apologised, but said she was just going to try something on her computer.

"Aha!!" she exclaimed.

We looked at the screen, and sure enough, THERE WERE TICKETS AVAILABLE.


She told us that she changed the option to 'Eurail passes', which in fact is basically the same as InterRail - InterRail is a denomination of Eurail.


This was for the part of the journey between Chambery and Milan, so she tried it with the Milan to Italy and it worked too. YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS.

We couldn't believe it. I can't even describe the relief we felt.

This woman was by far the most important and best person we've met on this trip.

I wanted to take a fucking picture of us with her, that was how happy she made us. They should model ALL ticket sellers on this woman. Actually, fuck this, HUMAN BEINGS should be modelled on this woman.

She printed out our tickets and we thanked her more than once. She asked us where we were from and we said 'England'. She explained that most of the time when people ask to speak in English, they are actually from other countries, but can understand it better than any other language. She said she was glad to speak to someone who was actually from England!

And that was it! We left with smiles on our faces. FUCKING AMAZING. As you can tell I still haven't got over it. Everything went right.

So the next task was to find somewhere with wifi. There was nowhere in the station, however just outside there was a fast food burger restaurant which had free wifi, so we went in there.

Three fast food meals in three days. Oh dear.

We both got this chicken and bacon burger thing which was pretty good, and we ate our meals in about 10 minutes. We used the wifi for about an hour and a half. That's how you get your money's worth.


In this time we booked where we're staying in Venice - it's in a campsite/mobile home park thing where there is a shuttle bus to the city centre every 10 minutes and it looks great. It's quite cheap too.

And that would have brought you up to date, except now I am writing this sentence about 5 hours later than the rest of this post. This is because the fast food place shut. We then stayed in the station until 12:45am, where Sam slept for a little while, but then the station shut. So now we are outside.

When we first went outside, we were sitting by the closed restaurant to get the wifi. But we felt very insecure - there were people walking around near us, it was dark and we were by ourselves.

So we got up and walked around a bit just so we weren't such easy targets. We were just walking towards a hotel, when we saw a couple of people we recognised from the station waiting area waiting outside the station.

Sam asked an old man if he was waiting for a train, and he said that he was waiting for one for 5 o'clock in the morning because he missed his last one. We started talking and he's told us loads of stories about his life! He has been in 72 different countries, he was at one point in his life a millionaire, and he lived in England for 11 years. We're still talking now and another French person has joined us too. This is brilliant! Not only are we safe but we're having another experience like on that first train. This travelling thing is the shit.

So we're ok; we're safe, and we'll be getting our train at 8.40am in the morning, arriving in Venice after our changes at about 6.30pm.

The next update will be from Venice. In ITALY!! Exciting shit.

Good night!

Jack - 8/6/12 - 03:28 in Lyon, 02:28 in the UK.

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