Barcelona one last time and a turbulent hop to France

This was my last day in Barcelona and I was sad to be leaving but at the same time excited to be moving on. My next stop was not home and as such I was starting to feel the type of excitement we experienced on our longer trips. Where the sadness of leaving one great place is lessened by the excitement of what is still to come.

The Australian girl with the visa worries (whose name I never found out) was leaving for her flight at around the time that I was leaving for one final explore of the city. P also appeared at that precise moment as did the guy from Cambridge so we all walked to the Metro station with her. We all said goodbye to Australian girl and I reminded her that she was following in the footsteps of her forefathers by heading to Australia following a criminal act. She laughed. Some people get my sense of humour, which is nice.

P was also leaving Barcelona later in the day and with the little time we had left she agreed to show me the cable car which runs from the harbour to the hills of Montjuic. It was something that I had planned to do but due to laziness and bad weather I had not bothered with. This is proof that although I was really enjoying travelling alone, in all honesty I need somebody to motivate me. When we travelled the world we met many people, mainly guys, who were stuck in hostels, not doing a great deal and with no idea where to go next. Some had even run out of money and were thus stuck in their own personal groundhog day. This would be me if I set off on my own for a lengthy trip.

Which reminds me of a guy I met in Borneo. We got chatting and he asked me how long we were travelling for. “Half a year” I responded, feeling quite happy with myself. “You?” I asked in return. He then proceeded to tell me, in quite some detail, that he had been travelling for nearly 3 years and had no plans to head home to Canada any time soon. Then he explained that he had some sort of credit card fraud on the go to fund his travels. Then he offered to help me hack into wifi networks the world over (I declined, and regretted it when we reached New Zealand) before downloading about 40 films onto our laptop. When I last saw him he was off to find some surfing beach in The Philippines that he had an old photo of and for which he had no name or location. He was just going to show people the photo until he struck lucky. I still can’t decide if I am jealous of his life or not. He’s probably dead now. Or in prison…..yup, still can’d decide.

Anyway, we got to the cable car by way of a long walk through the harbour by which point I needed a pee. Too much free coffee back at the hostel. The ticket office at the huge tower from which the cable car departs assured me that there was a toilet at the top. There was a toilet at the top but it was shut for refurbishment. I was desperate. I proceeded to use my very best Spanish and hassled the staff. Fortunately toilet matters were something I covered very early when I started to try and teach myself Spanish. I may be crap at learning languages but I am very good at prioritising. My protests worked and I was ushered into the staff toilet where a female employee insisted that I keep the door open so she could watch me like a hawk. There was no time to be shy. Never have I peed so accurately.

Back out in the waiting room I told P about the the toilet experience I had just had. This is a good example of my lack of ability to shut up and leave some things unsaid. To her credit she smiled and said nothing.

The cable car ride was great. It starts high and passes over the harbour giving a great view of the city and the mountains beyond. Incidentally I had planned a day trip out to the mountains but cancelled it due to the fact that I only brought a lightweight summer jacket which was inadequate for a night in a football stadium, so would definitely be no good for a potentially snowy mountain. I could see the mountains I intended to visit from the cable car and they were indeed snow covered. Another lucky escape.

Barcelona Harbour
The view from the Port Vell Aerial Tramway over Barcelona Harbour

Eventually the cable car reached Montjuic, which is the area that was developed for the 1992 summer Olympics. We didn’t bother visiting the stadium as time was short and instead we climbed the hill up to the castle. We didn’t go inside though, despite a reasonable costs of only 5 Euros. We both had transport to catch and lunch was a more pressing need. We walked around the castle, took a few photos and then started to descend.

Montjuic Castle, which overlooks Barcelona City

Our hostel in El Poble Sec was actually at the foot of Montjuic Hill so it didn’t take long to get back. We then went for some tapas at the same place I had eaten when I arrived at El Poble Sec, which was again excellent and this time I had my cheese melted too.

And that was Barcelona. I have in the past got bored of cities but I don’t think I could ever get bored of Barcelona. The city is a delight to explore, it is safe, it has the greatest metro system I have ever used, lovely people, wonderful food and at least two really great hostels.

A little heads up to anybody who I may have inspired to go and eat churros explore Barcelona. RyanAir are offering return flights for around £40 in the coming months and you can find great deals for accommodation with Trivago. Or if you are feeling really inspired check out Hostelbookers and make new friends whilst saving money.

My new found travel friend was with me to the end as it transpired that her train to the south of Spain departed from the same station as my train to the airport, and at pretty much the same time. It was nice to share my last two days with somebody and it made me realise that though I really enjoyed travelling alone I would much rather travel with Claire.

And that is who I was off to see. In Chamonix, in the French Alps of all places.

The flight was one of the best I have ever had.The whole process went smoothly and I flowed through it whilst listening to music. I worked out that it was my 62nd flight and most of these have been in the last 4 years. I was once petrified of flying but as we encountered some rather crazy turbulence as we made approach to Geneva airport I found myself enjoying it. At one point the plane dropped sharply for a good 2 seconds – which is an interesting experience. Whilst most passengers screamed and gasped the bottle of Coke that I had in a bag at my feet started to rise towards the ceiling. Catching is one of my greatest skills, and for the most part it is a totally useless skill, but it enabled me to elegantly snatch the speeding Coke bottle from the air. I was so chuffed that I let out an excitable “woohooooo!”. Once the plane had settled down the woman in front of me went to great efforts (imagine somebody doing a really bad 7 point turn in a car) to turn and give me a rather sharp look. I winked at her and resisted the urge to swig from the Coke bottle.

Have I mentioned that I only had a lightweight summer jacket with me? It is fair to say that I was rather under clothed for snowy Geneva when I exited the airport into sub zero temperatures. The other passengers on the shuttle bus I had booked were all carrying skis and snowboards and wearing a serious amount of winter clothing. A couple of them looked at me strangely but I styled the whole thing out perfectly until the point when I started shivering uncontrollably.

I didn’t even have the address of the chalet where Claire and her entire family were waiting for me 100km and a border crossing away. Fortunately though the shuttle bus driver, a rather cocky British guy, had the address on his booking sheet. After dropping every other passenger off at various hotels, and one woman at McDonalds, we drove up a steep and narrow road that was covered with more snow that I had seen for a very long time. The guy stopped outside each chalet and eventually decided which one it was. Except he didn’t exactly sound sure. What he said was “here you go mate. It’s probably that one. Have a nice time.” My response was along the lines of “Have you seen what I’m wearing? I need to be sure!” He turned and pointed his torch at me. After seeing the lightweight summer jacket he nodded and set off on foot  into the snow with his torch.

It was in fact the right chalet so I did my best impression of Bambi on ice and made my way to the front door. I could see nobody through the window but the lights were all on so I opened the door and stepped inside. Then I had doubts and stood for a what felt like a minute listening to the distant voices, trying to recognise any of them. I convinced myself that I had the wrong house and was about to leave when I heard Claire. So I crept in and scared her half to death.

You can find a few more random photographs of my time in Barcelona here.

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