Europe 2002

From Ashford to Athens

<< Previous section Next section >> >

Barcelona and back

Alpine adventure (Days 1-4)
Viennese whirl (Days 5-9)
Slovenian theatre (Days 10-12)
Bombing it through Belgrade (Day 13)
Litohoro lazing (Days 14-16)
Olympic ideas (Days 17-19)
We are sailing (Days 20-21)
Assisi amblings (Days 22-23)
Breton brouhaha (Days 24-26)
Encore en Foix (Days 27-28)
Barcelona and back (Days 29-31)

Full diary [fast connections]

Day 29: Foix > La Tour De Carol > Barcelona

The plan was simple enough: catch the train to L'Hopitalet then a bus to Andorra. A lateish start, a replacement bus service and our missing the stop at L'Hopitalet meant it had gone 1pm by the time we reached La Tour Du Carol.

There was indeed a bus to Andorra, but 5 hours travelling for 2 hours in Andorra wasn't very appealing. Time to put Plan B into operation..Throughout the trip I've wanted to go to Barcelona, an ambition not shared by Richard and Andy. Does Andorra have an Olympic Stadium? Does it hell.

Time then for one of my silliest solo excursions to date: an evening in Barcelona, a night in a hostel followed by a mad dash back to Foix in time for the Paris night train.

As the train travelled south and down from the Pyrenees, the thermometer displayed inside my carriage gradually rose. 15�C... 16�C... 17�C... By the time the suburbs of Barcelona streamed past the window it was a dizzying 28�C and I was hit by a blast of warm air as I left the air-conditioned train.

I checked into my hastily-booked Youth Hostel then set out for an evening stroll, first to the nearby Nou Camp (sadly Barca were playing away today) and then to the famous Ramblas.

The Ramblas

This long street is supposed to be the very essence of Barcelona and it was certainly packed on a Monday evening. The crowds were 'entertained' buy the usual entourage of Peruvian pan-pipe bands, piss-poor Diabolo jugglers and myriads of bloody human statues.

For dinner I headed to an 'all-you-can-eat' restaurant, just off the Ramblas. These places should be banned - they can't be good for your health. For €8,80 you first filled a large plate from the salad bar (it put Pizza Hut to shame). In the next room there were mountains of pizza and pasta as well as huge vats of soup. Luckily I left room for dessert - unlimited chocolate ice-cream. and fruit (very healthy). and unlimited tea coffee and hot chocolate.

Suitably bloated I waddled round the Ramblas for a while, swelling the coffers of Mr Stelios at the 'EasyEverything' Internet Cafe and not swelling the coffers of the human statues. Ha.

Day 30: Barcelona > La Tour De Carol > Foix >

Despite being in a dorm full of snorers, tappers, groaners and creakers, I got a good night's sleep and was up and out of the hostel by 9. I headed to the Pla�a Espanya and walked up the imposing Avenue Reina Ma Cristina past rows of fountains and the buildings of the Catalan parliament.

The views over Barcelona were magnificent, but my target lay further up the Montjuic hill - the Estadi Olimpic.

When the gates were finally opened I rushed inside but there was a problem. No-one was allowed on to the track. I had two options: 1) Leap over the crowd barriers and run around the track before anyone could stop me. 2) Ask nicely.

1101 (T-30) I tried option 2. It didn't work. "Is not possible". "But..." "No. Is not possible." Clearly this was going to take rather more time than I had anticipated, and time was something that I did not have. It was now 11:01. In precisely 30 hours I should be leaving Brussels on the 17:01 service to Ashford. Barcelona would have to wait - I had to head home.

I boarded the 12:06 train, destination La Tour de Carol. Although my Olympic efforts had come to nothing it had been great fun to visit such an exciting city - I will return.

1631 (T-24.5) The train system round here is royally screwed at the moment. Pour aller en Foix, c'est necessaire de changer en Tarascon utilising an undocumented (though free) bus. Still bus seems the way to travel, with views of the Pyrenees all around.

2101 (T-20) Encore en Foix! It's very cold - Richard and Andy were complaining about the freezing night they had endured. After a few games of table-tennis we took down the tent for THE FINAL TIME!!! We ate at Danelli Pizza for THE FINAL TIME!!! Now we are ensconced in the station awaiting our train. Richard and Andy have resorted to the incredibly unamusing 'translate song lyrics into French' game.

Day 31: > Paris >Brussels > Ashford

0601 (T-11) As expected, an uncomfortable, sleep-challenged night. Unlikely to get back to sleep now. Today is likely to be a mixture of tetchiness (sleep deprivation) and excitement (going home!)

1031 (T-6.5) On the high-speed Thalys train with the French -or possibly Belgian- countryside rushing past. Weather looks depressing. Welcome back to reality.

1501 (T-2) Our trip to Brussels was a re-run of last time - a struggle with the lockers, a nice meal and the much-anticipated trip to the Euro shop to stock up on tacky Euro souvenirs.

1701 (T-0) Eurostar 9149 departs bound for Ashford International, with three very tired InterRailers amongst its passengers.

Barring catastrophic collapse of the Channel Tunnel, it marks a happy end to our month's travel. It may sound cliched but it's been a holiday of real contrasts - camping in beautiful scenery, youth hostelling in bustling cities; some of the world's most civilised places, Belgrade; travelling on the TGV at 300km/h, going nowhere in Litohoro; swimming in the Aegean, sailing across the Adriatic.

Richard yelled at me at one point "YOU FIND EVERYTHING INTERESTING!" Which is, sad to say, very true. I'm even starting to appreciate human statues.