Arrangements can come undone as quickly as they are made so it seems. After chatting with the American couple in my couchette last night we discovered that we were all headed to Barcelona only they were without a hostel. After asking where I was staying, they’d decided to follow and see if they could get in at the Dream Hostel as well. It made me feel a little more comfortable heading into this new city with people I’d got to know and got on pretty well with.
Like I said, these arrangements didn’t last too long when going to get my onward ticket (the one I was told would be no problem in Paris), I was informed my train was full and I would have to wait. The couple who had already booked their tickets on the train said their goodbyes and I was left stranded waiting another hour (on top of the hour and a half I had already waited) for the next train.
A coffee and a croissant later and I felt a bit more ready to handle the day ahead. My train as it turned out was the stopping service to Barcelona and when I say “stopping service” I mean just that. I don’t think we ever got above 5mph on the entire run, stopping some 40 times along the way!!!! It wasn’t until we stopped at Gerona that I was convinced it was the correct train! A Columbian lass sat opposite was kind enough to tell me which station I needed to get off at and 3 and a half hours later I was getting lost looking for the underground at Barcelona Sants station!
Once I’d found my way to the metro and following the directions given to me on the website, I had negotiated my way fairly easily to Para-lel metro stop and outside. However, here my directions took me somewhat astray. Fortunately 10 minutes of wondering took me onto the correct road and to the hostel moments later.
First impressions can often be very accurate, on this occasion they were somewhat misleading! The hostel, with its spectacularly graffitied (they had been designed this way) walls and doors, the music blurting out in the corridors and the girl asleep in one of the beds as I arrived in my room (it was 3pm by the way!) gave me a slightly daunting view of what I had just walked into!!! It seemed there had been a bit of a party the night before at the hostel and one or 2 were still sleeping it off!
Now, like Paris and Lille before I was keen to get out and have a wonder round so took off for Placa De Cataluya in the hot Barcelona sunshine! The walk took me up the famous Ramblas with Placa De Catalunya at the top. Deciding that my 14 hours on the road had taken a large portion of my energy away I chose to grab a seat, read my book and watch the world go by for a bit. Now I chose my seat (a conveniently empty space) pretty well as it turns out. A beautiful lass was sat next to me and tried to get a conversation going with her.
Shari turned out to be just finishing her stay in Barcelona (a great shame) and was off back to Brugge tomorrow. We chatted a bit about what to do in the city and she passed on her guidebook to me (all in Dutch but it had a great map in the back) which seemed like a nice gesture. We wound up going for coffee (she was actually waiting for her friend who was living and working there) and we got on pretty well it seemed! I was really disappointed when she had to go and knew I’d likely never see her again but we swapped email addresses and went our separate ways.
After a good month of trying to initially get in contact with Alan, we finally managed to meet up!!! I braved the rain (I knew the mac would come in handy) and met him in the Hard Rock Cafe in Placa De Catalunya. “You come all this way, meet me to hopefully show you some local knowledge and I end up taking you to the most touristy bar in Barcelona” was his comment when we finally met! It was true, but I knew we’d head out elsewhere!
Something I hadn’t bargained for however, was meeting up again with Catherine, another friend from back home (and good friend of Alan’s) who I hadn’t seen for what must be at least 4 years! She just happened to be out visiting Alan whilst I was in town and couldn’t believe it when I saw her at the bar! As if to tie the trip together a little, she was the girl I had gone out to Lille to see some 5 years previous and the time spent there was the main reason I had wanted to go back and see Lille again! A coincidence, definitely but certainly made the night more enjoyable!
We ended up (6 of us in total including a few friends of Alan’s) at a great Tapas restaurant around a few backstreets off of the Ramblas. I couldn’t tell you where on earth the place was now as it really was round some rather dark alleys! The food though, was excellent!! For €16 a head we had more tapas than we could possibly have eaten (I lost count of the number of dishes!!) and as much Sangria as we could manage! Good food, muchos alcohol and nice ambience made the perfect backdrop to catching up with old friends!
I made a crucial mistake going back into my room at the hostel (must have been around 2am) when, not being able to see what the hell I was doing, I turned the light on. This flick of the switch brought several groans from my roommates and realizing my mistake it went off pretty quickly. Lesson learned here – Make sure you are ready to be able to just jump into bed when you get back from a night out!