I started writing this post from the Irun train station, just after the French border. What we had to go through could be truly called an adventure.
Here’s a map to help you follow along this post!
The original plan was to go from Paris Gare de Montparnasse to Irun and then we would continue from there to Lisbon with a night train. As I said, that was the plan. The day before our Paris-Irun TGV I received an email from the French railways saying that there could be a disruption, making us be 20 min late. If the train would have been in time, we would have had half an hour for the change, in this way we would have just 10 minutes. Anyways I still went at the train station to the info desk and they said that no problem! They’ll say to the Irun-Lisbon train to wait for us. With lightened burdens, we left towards Irun.
Everything went smoothly till the point when the train was so full that people would have to stand in the corridors, making us wonder since, in order to book a ticket for a TGV, one has reserve a seat. Anyways, at a certain point a woman announces that the train would be 20 mins late. Ok, we knew that could happen.
By the way, about this woman. I know some French because I studied it during the last three years of primary school. It’s rusty, but I can understand the main info in case of emergency. The thing was that the woman in question also made English announcements that, believe me, I didn’t even understand were in English at the beginning. So, the only way was to try to get the most out of the French ones. Once arrived at the Bordeaux station, the woman said we were an hour late. Not good. The reassuring announcements saying that the train would wait us stopped and I had to go to ask what was going on. They told me that they were waiting the news whether the Irun-Lisbon train will wait for us or not. Wait, what? And, surprise surprise, the train would in fact not wait for us since we were at that point more than one hour and a half late. Hyperventilating. Ok, Thais, calm down. The voice of the woman spoke again informing us we should get off at the next station, that was Bayonne. Wait, what?? My mind was getting totally clouded at this point. We got to the train station and realized, that we thank goodness weren’t alone in this situation.
We would be directed to an office, queued up and waited to hear the news. A somehow cute lady helped us to understand that there wouldn’t be any train directed to Lisbon till next day (there is one train per day that goes from Irun to Lisbon) and that we would spend the night in a hotel there, of course provided by them. It felt strange to be somewhere we didn’t exactly know where, going with a group of strangers to just wait. On the walk from the train station to the hotel we could admire how pretty, clean and well kept Bayonne is, factors that surely alleviated our mixed feelings. Since it is located so close to the Spanish border, in its architecture one can see a mixture of French and Spanish influences. The staff both at the Bayonne train station and at the hotel looked so well organized that they gave me the impression that this wasn’t the first time it had happened. I think they made us stop in Bayonne, one of the last cities in France before the border, because it would have been more difficult for them, the French railways that is, to organize an hotel for us in Spain. The next morning at half past twelve we would take a train to Irun and from there wait till the evening to catch our train to Lisbon, a day later than what we planned.
The following morning we received, however, a call in the hotel room, saying that a taxi was waiting for us downstairs and we soon realized that clearly that taxi was not bringing us back to the Bayonne train station. We headed to Irun, that is because the Spanish railways wanted us to be there before 12 so to make us new tickets. Once we got there, a only-Spanish-speaking-woman told us and the other 4 guys who were traveling with Interrail like us (you should have seen her bewildered face once she heard we were 6, it was something terribly hilarious: she closed her eyes and showed me the palm of her hand as to say “Don’t tell me more please”) that the evening train was fully booked and that we should have gone from Irun to Medina del Campo, wait there till midnight and from there catch the train to Lisbon. My guess is that some seats must have gotten free in Medina.
Why, this was something unexpected! Of course at the moment it didn’t feel that nice, but afterwards is surely a nice memory and experience to tell and something that gave a nice twist to this well-planned trip of ours. As we got on the train to Lisbon in Medina del Campo, there were some seats problems: the lady in Irun just wrote by pen the new seats for us (by the way, even wrong ones since someone else had the same seats reserved) on the old ticket and the ticket collector didn’t at first believe our story. After all this adventures, we finally arrived the following morning to Lisbon and from there still took a train to Funcheira, where my dad and granny came to fetch us. Exhausted but happy, we finally headed to the place where we spent the following three weeks: Vila Nova de Milfontes.
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