unstuck: Figueres & finally BCN

Thank God and all his merry men, We have escaped!

You would not believe it. But I’ll say it anyway. We caught a taxi to Spain today.

Today we went to the station, railway, having been told the one train that would not be cancelled was the 12:30 – I’m talking strikes here, union idiocy and further bureaucratic idiocy from SNCF, French rail. Of course, our worst nightmare came true: arriving at the station – which Dali called the Centre of the World – It just dawned on him that it was – It was the end of the world for us – arriving there to find that train cancelled and no trains, NONE, going to Espagne.

SNCF had even closed the booking office down. Two ladies wandered around fielding endless enquiries from others stranded and us… And everybody seemed so CALM! There ought to have been a bloody revolution!

And SNCF as a stopgap had put on a bus at 4:30 to Cebere as close as one could come to Espagne… 4:30??? We’d be arriving if we made any connection at all in BCN at around midnight, or worse. Worse in fact as it turned out would’ve happened. Since our taxi driver a chatty Catalan bollocked SNCF for sending people to this 2 taxi town 30 minutes from the nearest Spanish railway station… Imagine!

The Welcome office was naturally open to welcome stranded passengers, a service they excelled at, while not actually having any other use. I asked about buses. Travelling from the bus depot. Don’t know can’t say won’t bother. Thanks. You’re welcome! Any other modality of arriving over the border? I asked, stretching my French. Taxi! Welcome said.

On repeated shaking, one of the ladies kindly coughed up the way that the land lay, t’were much better to go in a straight line to Figueres up the Autoroute than try and get to Port Bou by taxi, our destination by train, curly-wurlying around the mountains for hours. I love this lady. She saved us.

On approach they are full of come-hither and I-may-hit-you charm, the taxi drivers. This guy was brusque but biddable when it came to talking the fare to Spain. Got him down to 110 euros to Figueres. Which is as fate has it, a Dali town.

In confab, we decided all joking aside to take a taxi. Returning to taxi-stand right outside the centre of the world, 110 guy had buggered off. First off the rack guy now said 130. Let’s do it then!

He was a delightful guide, really: big old diesel Mercedes rolling when it got the chance at 160 k’s which wasn’t often for any great distance and talking talking. Over the border the biggest brothel in Europe, 150 girls. Full of useful info. This town is Spanish on one side of the street and French on the other, although the official border is down there. And so on.

We were stuck in more traffic jams, on the Autoroute, and, nearing a full-on stoppage, left for the N road. A scenic route. Q. got the guy’s Nintendo to play with. We talked about the unification of Europe that has given such boost to regional identities like the Catalan, how curious it is that under these conditions of open state borders older formations reassert themselves, and become viable economic entities in their own right.

We were in Fig. by just after midday, sooner than if there had been a train. Discovered a regional RENFE due to leave at 12:26, so from taxi to train. The latter making all the stops, but a great introduction to spoken Catalan and Spanish. They have rubber tongues, the Catalan, said Q. They must do. Was transfixed by two girls chatting loudly in the aisle.

Second brilliant, rather shorter taxi ride. Pronunciation lessons. And a brief guide to the city. First impressions: not so daunting, easier than Paris.

Then. Then. Were there. Now are here.

It all seems a close shave with being totally totally stuck. And think of it this way: Another night in Perp. would easily have cost us 130.

Even the apartment happened to be ready for us to climb right to, up the narrow steep stair. A terrace.

Before dinner a walk down the promenade beside the broad artificial beaches, past Frank Gehry’s fish and a building that looks like a Renzo Piano. Glimpses of the Sagrada Familia in the distance down long hazy boulevards.

But will all sink in tomorrow, when better slept and relieved of the stress of strikes and France and no house in BCN. Here!