This is the story of how it came to pass that it would take me two days to travel to Barcelona from Biarritz, France.
The day before i was to leave for barcelona from biarritz i looked at the train schedule and in order for me to reach Barcelona at a reasonable time, i would have to take a night train from Irun. This idea was alright with me for several reasons. First, while biarritz was nice there was not a lot to do there and a night train would allow me to spend more time in Barcelona. Second, i had never taken a night train and thought it would be fun or at the very least something new. And lastly, i felt like i had no choice, but to take a night train, but had i known how late everything stays open in Barcelona and what was to happen in this journey i would have thought otherwise. But then again, this decision led to this story and trips where everything goes according to plan are boring.
I gave up my last night at the hostel and bought a ticket to Irun that left at 7 or so and arrived in Irun with plenty of time to catch the 1030pm train to Barcelona. I would have to buy my ticket there, but i wasn't concerned about it. The train station at Biarritz is more what you'd expect at a smaller town, especially considering that Biarritz has a major surf festival every year. It was small and was essentially deserted except for this german/french couple who spoke english and worked grueling hours at a cooking academy of sorts. I passed the time talking to them, mainly listening to stories about their work and where they had been and discussing the lateness of the train and what it meant.
The train was pretty late and i knew it would be a tight squeeze getting onto my next train, but i wasn't too worried. So funny thing about this train and maybe this should have been a sign or something, but it didn't go to Irun. It was supposed to, but stopped short at Hendaye and upon arrival there i followed the rushed crowd onto a bus that was to take us the 5 or so minute drive to Irun where i would catch my train.
When i get there, i have 20 minutes until my train leaves . I went up to the ticket office and asked for a ticket to barcelona on the 1030 pm train and the man replied, "next train 1030." and i said, "yes, the 1030 train" he said"no, no, no. 1030 AM...tomorrow." I asked about the night train and he told me to go to another window five feet to the left. The woman at this window looked as if she was about to jump off the nearest building not just to end her life, but just so she could land on the bystanders below and kill them as well. why should she go down alone? This woman just repeated what the other man had said and i asked her what i was to do, sleep there? She said the train station closes in 30 minutes, so no.
So here i was stuck somewhere in France or Spain (still not sure at this point) and with the sharp rain falling and wild wind whipping sand and water at my face outside, my prospects looked grim. Also there was a drunk Parisian man wandering around near the tracks that was making things interesting as well. It was as if this man had gotten drunk, wandered onto a train, fallen asleep and awoken still drunk, but in a different country.
Luckily though, i had met an english-speaking Spanish girl named Bayadrid who was in the same predicament as me. She said there was a bus going to barcelona and we could buy a ticket from the driver and be there in the morning. It was to leave in an hour or so, so naturally we headed to the bar across the street for a drink. After the bar closed and we got kicked out, we stood under an awning, not completely protected by the stinging rain and sand to wait for the bus. When the bus arrived, the driver refused to let us buy a ticket saying we needed to buy one at the ticket office that was now closed. Awesome. Bayadrid was more upset than me at this point. I was tired and anyway i had a guide that spoke spanish and had a cellphone. I wasn't worried. And perhaps i had come to terms with sleeping at the station. The next train was at 1030 the next day, only 10 hours away and i knew my iPod would last.
We moved to the more substantial awning near the tracks and the drunk Parisian that was now rapping with a fellow stranded traveler. There was a security guard there and when the drunk man was not looking, he found the drunkard's liquor and poured it out. Later when he went back for his booze, the Parisian found none and as he looked at the guard, the guard looked away pretending to not know anything about his missplaced booze. So as i sat waiting for fate to run its course and bayadrid to finish talking on her cell, at least i had entertainment. When Baya got off her cell she looked at me and said,"do you want to stay here, or come with me?" And naturally, i did not want to stay and so i went.
A family friend of hers lived nearby and came to pick us up. It was past midnight when we arrived at this apartment building where we were greeted by this older woman in a bathrobe. She spoke only spanish, but i understood her. I've never met people so willing to help a stranger. I could have been some crazy person, but this womand and her husband invited me into her home, offered me food and gave me a warm place to stay for the night. The next morning, she gave me breakfast and called a cab for bayadrid and i to take to the train station.
I'm not a religious person, i feel as though i can't help but see the worst in this world and i often fail to have faith in the ability of people to be kind for no reason at all. But it was the beginning of semana santa, and with the meeting of this trusting student, and the cross that hung above my bed at the kind woman's apartment, i can't help but believe that someone upstairs was looking out for me that night. Bayadrid and i said our good-byes before we boarded the train, we were seated in different cars and were getting off at different places. The strangest thing happened though as i said goodbye, i felt sad. We had spent maybe 12 hours together and talked only of meaningless things, but as i boarded the train, i felt as though i was leaving a close friend behind forever. I will always be indebted to Bayadrid and her friends and know that the kindness she showed me that night will stay with me forever in her stead.