Viva Espana: Day 18 – Off to Zaragoza

After a Sunday evening catching up with friends again – comparing notes on what we had seen since Friday, how many times we had got lost and whether they had successfully seen the rugby…

…Does 15 minutes at the end of the match, watching the screen from the door count? There are two or three Irish pubs in Seville where football and rugby matches can be watched. However, St Patrick’s Day celebrations on Friday had resulted in two of the pubs being closed down by the police.

The Spanish may enjoy a breakfast sherry, they may well be drinking (with food) from 10am but it’s the English (it was bound to be the English (maybe with a few Irish but bound to be mostly the English) – I’m English, I can say that) who can’t be trusted with all day drinking. Yes, St Patrick is an Irish saint, but that hasn’t really stopped the English embracing it – it’s the Guinness, isn’t it?  You don’t see the English lining the streets (or the pubs) for St Andrew’s or St David’s Days. Even St George’s Day doesn’t enjoy the same level of enthusiasm.

…I had an early start today. I was actually up before the birds started singing at sunrise – currently around 7.15am. They’re noisy buggers on the street I was staying on. This was no dawn chorus in a tuneful Snow White style lullaby. This was a raucous shouting match.

Bye-bye Seville and off to catch a train to Zaragoza, and it was a slightly different setup for boarding at Santa Justa.

Straight to the gate rather than through a Departure Lounge. My ticket was checked as I stepped on the escalator down to the platform.
The security scanners were also down there, as was another ticket verification.

I boarded and found my seat on the aisle with 20 minutes to spare. This is so civilised.

It was a busy train, and would be calling at a few stops before reaching Zaragoza. I won’t be describing the route back because you’ve already had the scenery description from the various journeys South. Plus: the women sitting behind me had pulled the window blind down halfway.

We did spend about twenty minutes at Cordoba – presumably allowing people to board rather than decoupling any trains. I decided that this would be the point to sample the buffet car offerings (which weren’t great. Spanish trains are marvellous, but they’re not miraculous).

It was in the carriage next to mine, and I know this because of the English announcement which was brought to us with a strong Geordie accent – a little taste of home.

On my return, I realised that the flight parallels just continue – we had a movie on the screens above the aisle. I finally noticed that my seat had a socket for earphones and volume controls (though the film was subtitled, in Spanish).

And what was the film? No idea but it looked like a “one woman’s struggle” kind of story. The scenes were a series of a woman clearly having disappointing conversations (for her) with other characters – possibly her mother, her boss, her father, maybe her husband – interspersed with scenes of caring for her child, looking thoroughly fed up and occasionally driving a car looking deep in thought. You know, “one woman’s struggle” – the kind of role Sandra Bullock is starting to play where she’s a scapegoat or the witness that nobody listens to, and at the end, she is finally vindicated.

By the time I noticed there was just under an hour to go before the train reached Zaragoza (though it would be continuing on to Barcelona so we were at the halfway point), I realised that the film had ended. There was time for another, surely, though something a bit uplifting might be nice – not that I was even watching it!

One of the nice things about travelling on Spanish trains is that etiquette requires phonecalls to be taken on the corridor between carriages. Watching loud shows/films on your phone or laptop is a definite no-no. A few rows in front of me, a passenger started watching a music video…

Almost as one… six passengers shifted in their seats and turned to glare at the offender. A hard stare may not sound like much of a deterrent but within less than five seconds, the music stopped.

Mission accomplished, the six settled back into their seats. Honestly, it was a joy to behold.

The train arrived, a little late, into Zaragoza, and I was delighted to discover my hotel was nine minutes walk away across the road. (54 minutes walk or 46 minutes by public transport in Seville had left me questioning my judgement). Room on the sixth floor and a view that confirmed that, yep, I’m at the very edge of town – it’s fields for miles.

But, while Zaragoza may be Spain’s fourth largest city (pub quiz fans), it’s only a 30-minute walk to the Old Town with a CASTLE on the way.

After a leisurely afternoon wandering in the sunshine to get my bearings, I settled down for coffee and checked my emails.

I’ve previously waxed lyrical about Trainline (other apps are available), but it has gone downhill since October in the South of France. No platform updates, no journey details, and today… it nearly gave me a heart attack with a notice about upcoming French rail strikes. Spoiler Alert: I have a train to Paris in a few days’ time.

Hmmmm. My moment of calm rudely interrupted, I thought I’d better check the details…

1. As in the UK, the French rail strikes are undertaken with plenty of notice.
2. The dates for March have already been agreed.
3. The last set of strikes was THREE DAYS AGO, with nothing scheduled for the rest of this week.

Well done, Trainline – accurate, prompt and timely information. Honestly.

Categories: Spain, Travel, Viva Espana, ZaragozaTags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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