Wednesday, April 01, 2009

No Siesta: Continued

Where was I?

Oh yeah. Here.

The train station, trying to get some shut eye.

As you know, that didn't quite work.

So, as the sky began to lighten with the early pastels of morning, me and my traveling companions, Becky and Lucy, decided to call off this whole sleeping thing and make way to use the toilet, located outside, by the train tracks.

We heard rumours about this thing. That it eats you alive.

I was always prepared to tackle the Turkish toilet. I read it about. I heard about it. I cancelled hotel bookings when I found out that one would be present in my room (or even worse, communal). But it wasn't until I encountered this toilet face to face, in the wee hours of the morning, in some strange part of France/Spain, that I understood.

Turkish toilets aren't fun.

I went into the dirty room. There was a hole in the ground...a porceline hole, but a hole nonetheless. It was gushing water, spouting it, churning it like some out-of-control bidet/white water rapids, the constant flurry of a quickly-moving flood. Before I even had a chance to grasp what I had to do, Becky pointed out that the door didn't lock. No, it barely closed. I promised her if she would watch out for me, I would watch out for her.

I tackled that scary thing tentatively. I squatted, using my hands to hold on to the wall for balance. You couldn't get down too low or the rush of water would sweep up your bum and carry you down the drain. I nearly slipped on the wet tiles. Twice. Those were the most terrifying moments of my life.

But somehow I made it out of there, alive. I watched out so that no one ambushed Becky and we were on our merry way. Later on, we heard Lucy tell us her horrible story of her squatting over the toilet and peeing while some guy just opened the unlocked door and barged in. Eeeek.

I made a silent vow to not pee until I got on the train. If we ever did get on the train.

Soon the train station information desk was open and somehow we found out that our train was due to leave for Spain shortly. Since I was the one with the grasp of French, I had to translate. My translation leaves a lot for the imagination. But I got the idea that our tickets were still valid. However, since Becky and Lucy had to reschedule their train to Madrid, the French ticket office couldn't do anything about it.

Apparently, even though it's all the EU, the Eurail train system has some flaws, in that a delay in France due to France train troubles has no bearing on the trains in Spain (fall mainly on the plain....sorry). So even though the girls spent money on their spain trains, the fact that they had to miss them due to circumstances out of their control, they still had to pay for it. Had the delay happened in Spain, it would be fine but apparently the two countries trains don't converse with each other.

I felt badly for them, especially as they stewed over their situation for awhile.

Soon enough, it was time to board the train. We sat in our seats and headed off into the morning mist. I fell asleep for most of the journey, waking up only at scenic times to see a fog covered, milky green pasture alloted with phantasmic silhouttes of horses, grazing along still ponds.

Unfortunately this scenery came to a quick end as our train soon stopped in Who The Hell Knows Where, Spain. We were across the border, near the water....but again, nowhere near our destination of Barcelona.

We didn't have much choice but to get off the train and congregate in yet ANOTHER train station. By now, everyone was well pissed off (as if we weren't already). During our four hours in Buttfuck Nowhere part 2, I managed to call Kelly on the payphone and complain to her while she was in the middle of managing a shift at Swiss Chalet.

Meanwhile, the Seattle girls found out that this whole delay would not only cancel their stay in Barcelona - they had to take the overnight to Madrid that night instead - but that they would in fact not be reimbursed for the train ride they had involuntarily missed. I would have been right pissed off if I were them. In fact I was pissed off but I was also so sleep deprived I didn't care.

Which didn't bode so well for me and and my day in Barcelona.

See, I wasn't planning on staying the city (I had, foolishly, heard too many bad things about it) so I had booked a resort cabin in Tarragona for that night and the next few days. I had another train to catch from Barcelona, but as far as I knew it was just an hour long and left every hour as well.

So I decided to brave Barcelona with my two disgruntled tour guides.

We had a wonderfully Spanish meal at a restaurant on Las Ramblas, consisting of sangria, tapas and paella.

It was a superb introduction to Spain. If only I had the functioning mental capacity to enjoy it. Remember, at this point, it's three in the afternoon and I am on 40-minutes of sleep. Thankfully the rest of my time in the city consisted of staring down pickpocketers and perusing the Las Ramblas market, where I picked up a sweet bracelet for myself.

As evening approached, I said goodbye to my new friends and hopped the train to Tarragona. To safety and security, a roof over my head.

Oh Gawd, if only it was that simple.

I arrived at the Tarragona train station, dazed and confused. Ever think you have a town figured out in your head and then you arrive and realize that it is NOTHING like you imagined?

Someone could have told me that Tarragona had one bad ass hill and that the train station was nowhere near where I needed to go.

And where did I need to go? Well, after a quick check to my notes scribbled haphazardly in my journal, I knew that in order to get to the beach cabins that were 7 km out of town, that I had to catch the "9" bus from Hotel Imperial.

So I started up the hill, with my increasingly heavy backpack, praying for death or for some rich Spaniard to take pity on me.

Neither happened. What did happen was that I slowly realized that while I could get away with rudimentary French in France and guidebook Italian and Germany in Italy, Austria, Germany, I could not converse my way in Spain. None of the people I met on the street, when asking for directions, spoke English. It was Spanish all the way, or nothing at all. I had forgot that earlier I had been depending on my Seattle friends for their translation, without realizing how rare English was.

Somehow though, I made my way to the main street where the buses took off from. I waited. And waited. And waited. The old people on the bench next to me looked confused. I was confused. I did not know where this "9" bus was except that someone had directed me here.

Twenty-minutes into my waiting, a bus came by. The doors opened and I tried to explain my situation to the non-English driver. I combined all the Spanish words I knew but they didn't make sense. He did, however, get what I was saying, or so I thought, so he pointed at the next street over and nodded.

I took this as "Go to the bus stop on the street parallel" so I did. And I waited. And waited. And waited.

Finally, I got out the resort's phone number and tried to give them a call to find out how best to get to them and where to get the bus.

There was no answer.

No, it even worse than that. There was a person saying that there was NO resort at all. Resort "non existo" or something.

This was the point I felt like crying. In fact I did cry. My bag was heavy, my feet hurt, I didn't know where I was going, I couldn't speak the language, I had no place to stay and worst of all, I had no sleep which meant I was not able to cope with any of the above like a normal person was. I felt completely, and utterly, helpless.

So, with my tears fallling behind my sunglasses, I slugged towards the water. I had no idea where I was going but figured at some point, I would find a way.

I soon spotted a large hotel overlooking the sea. The Hotel Imperial. And outside it, a bus stop.

Feeling bouyed by this discovery, I waited, hoping that the buses still ran since it was getting late and dark.

A bus stopped in front of me. It was the same bus driver from before. Once again, I tried to explain where I wanted to go. He shut the doors, refused to accept payment from me, and then acted like he was doing me a big favour. In some ways he was; he listened to me try and say "I'm sorry, I haven't slept in 36 hours" in Spanish, which came out as "No Siesta por trez seize horas", not the same.

Anyway, the bus stopped at one point and he told me to get off. If I continued down the road I would reach the resort. I thanked him profusely....though never understood what the big deal was since that stop by the resort was one he would have made anyway and that the bus I actually had hopped on was bus "9."

At any rate, I limped my way to the main office, sweat-covered and dusty from the road. To my surprise the person at the front desk did not speak English, but he did speak French and for the first time, I felt relief. I was able to tell him - and the old French couple that was waiting in the office - about my horrible day....and all in French! They all understood and even laughed at the jokes I made about my sore feet. For once, I conversed without fear or misunderstanding. That moment was definitely a highlight of my trip.

Another highlight was yet to follow. The man gave me the keys and a tour of my cabin. Bliss! I have to do an entire post about this place and my relaxing days there because it truly is a gorgeous, unique place and I was beyond lucky to have found it.

Thankfully with my horrid day from hell, there was a pot of Spanish gold at the end of this rainbow.

Next post: The Best Deal in Spain - Supreme Accommodation in Tarragona

And in future posts (and in honour of so many people I know going off to the great city): A landmark tour of Paris. Stay tuned!

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4 said they wanna go too:

Blogger simon wanderlusted...

Wander, I am travelling to Spain in May ( Seville). Its my first time to Seville. can you give me any advise? whats the language like ie do they speak English or is it like france?


1:00 AM  
Blogger Becslifeonline wanderlusted...

Great post. Glad it all worked out okay in the end! By the sounds of "there was a pot of Spanish gold at the end of this rainbow" it was well worth the trouble to get there! I'll look forward to reading all about it :-)

1:37 PM  
Blogger Wanderlusting wanderlusted...

Simon - Um, it's like France.'s worse. In France most people can actually speak English, they just choose not to. The minute you try - and want - to speak French with them, they switch to English.

But in Spain, most people actually don't know English, so it's very wise to learn a bit of Spanish, or at least have a good language guide (I recommend Rick Steves because it's funny and very practical).

I've never been to Seville but have heard lots of great things about it.

Becs - Yeah it's funny how things work out, hey? It was worth the hell I took to get there...and the drama did make for an interesting trip.

6:53 PM  
Blogger Emz wanderlusted...

Oh dear... haha. I'm going to Paris for study abroad (thankfully I take French) but we're probably gonna go visit a ton of places- I seriously hope this does NOT happen to me. But you learned a lot right haha =) Thanks for sharing this haha it was interesting to read, and hopefully an experience =) I have so many bathroom horror stories from rural china its amusing lol

1:08 PM  

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