The woman who had the seat by the window pushed me in the small of my back to move out of her way. I turned and gestured that I would do so when her husband had taken his seat and wasn’t blocking the aisle.
(An early morning eye roll from me).
I was booked on the 0823 out of Zaragoza, and as the ticket stated that the boarding gate (just like flying) closed at 0753, I had dutifully arrived at the station twenty minutes earlier again.
Zaragoza-Delicias is a rather lovely station. It’s very modern – a simple white block on the outside. Inside, well, it’s the quietest large city station I’ve ever been in. Where was everyone?
It wasn’t as if there wasn’t a steady flow of trains, but there didn’t seem to be, proportionately, many people using them. Announcements were kept to a bare minimum. It seemed to be that there were literally only announcements about the trains – I recognised place names and numbers. There just didn’t seem to be a barrage of endless announcements, as in UK railway station where it seems that they’re worried the microphone and speakers will stop working if they are not used every 10 seconds.
By tomorrow night, it will be the usual chorus of “See it, say it, sort it” and “Because of the wet weather, the station concourse floor is slippery.” Blimey, it’s like these phrases are engraved across my heart.
Meanwhile, in Zaragoza, concourses are kept clear so passengers can queue for security checks with glass cubes as waiting areas. It’s all clean lines and simple design.
There are some definite design flaws, in my opinion – it doesn’t feel like it has been designed to accommodate the movement of crowds. For example, once the gate was FINALLY announced at 0814, having cleared security, people then had to move off to the left to join another queue for the ticket check. This was fine until the ticket checks opened and the passengers clearing security had to interrupt ticket checks to get to the back of the ticket queue.
Down to the platform and, as in Cordoba unlike everywhere else, no train. It rocked up at 0823. Passengers piled off. Their replacements piled on.
Two minutes later came a rather direct and light-hearted announcement: “Doors are closing. Take your seats. Let’s GO!”
It was 1.5 hours to Barcelona where I would change trains. I settled back to enjoy the ride.
Trainline sent me a notification to say my train was departing on time. It bloody wasn’t… unless they meant my train from Barcelona. I had 40 minutes, should this one arrive on time to find my next Boarding Gate and do the security checks. I suspected that the airline metaphor would not stretch to transitting.
The train arrived bang on time and I climbed up the stairs off the platform to arrive in the Departures Lounge, specifically for Gate 5 (already announced for Paris Gare de Lyon) which is where I am very sure I left from to go to Madrid.
There was already a lengthy queue to go through ticket checks… my goodness, it WAS like transitting an airport… and this was immediately halved when it turned out that the line was for Madrid as well. We ultimately ended up with three lines because of the numbers of people.
Ticket checks started at 10am ready for the 1033 departure.
This was an astonishingly smooth transfer – no racing through railway stations to find a platform at the opposite end to the one I’d arrived at (Manchester Piccadilly for example with the previous commuting fun of a dash from Platform 1 to Platform 14).
And, let’s also acknowledge the fact that I wasn’t going to have to go and find ANOTHER station to continue my journey… looking at you Paris (Gare du Nord to Austerlitz or Gare de Lyon) and London (Euston to St Pancras).
Back in Barcelona, ahead of me in the queue, a number of people were pulled to one side for further conversation with staff. An English couple were asked to do so.
When it came to my ticket… the conductor waved me down to the platform: “Parfait. Bon voyage.”
I was in the last carriage. Dependent on the direction of train travel, I’d either be the first carriage into Gare de Lyon, travelling forwards; or the last one, travelling backwards. Aisle seat again, kids. And I was in the last carriage travelling backwards.
And the route back was the same one I had taken on the way out.
While pondering the buffet car offer, because I was going to be a while on this train, I checked the SNCF website… and discovered there are rail strikes today, declared last night. Having been informed that notice has to be given for strikes in France, which is why I didn’t check last night, I was a little surprised to discover this news.
I’d have looked a bit sick if I’d arrived at Barcelona only to discover my train wasn’t running. No word on this from the Trainline app – I’ll probably get a notification next week.
Any implications for my trip across Paris? Three out of five trains an hour are running. Is that even a strike?
There were quite a few empty seats in the carriage when the train arrived at Girona. This quickly changed.
The woman sitting diagonally across the aisle at a table realised she had to move when a couple told her she was sitting in their seats (shoes off, feet up in the nest she had constructed). I had been a little bemused when I saw her sit there because before the train pulled out of Barcelona she had been holding court down the far end of the carriage. Maybe she just didn’t like her friends enough to travel with them.
Police boarded the train at Figueres. Four entered the carriage, looked at all if the passengers and left.
After a surprisingly good lunch, the train arrived at Béziers where a smartly dressed woman and her fluffy little white lapdog boarded.
How sweet. Cuddly, sweet-faced little pooch in a crocheted red coat – utterly adorable. In a previous life, the little bugger must have been Cerberus.
Everyone was sucked in.
The American guy across the aisle from me: “Hey, buddy.”
The young couple sitting at the same table, as the woman with her dog, made cooing noises.
A young man walking along the corridor: “Bonjour, petit” and the little shit went for his fingers.
Hands were originally put in pockets on a radius of five metres, fluffball’s owner calmed him and he slept.
At Montpellier, Cerberus and his owner departed the train. Nobody wished him a ‘bon voyage’. Eyes averted and hands in pockets.
With two hours before we arrived in Paris, I was suddenly struck by the view outside the window… grey skies. What was this? While chilly In Barcelona, I’d seen nothing but blue skies for the last three weeks.
I knew it was going to be cold on arrival into the French capital, but… grey? This was something of a shock.