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Europe By Dog

I slept on a bench in Frankfurt airport for a couple of hours and then went to meet Carita on the 05:38 from Hamburg, which I hoped she'd caught after getting the ferry from Finland. Her phone wasn't working in Germany, so, with no way to contact her I just had to hope for the best. Somehow, however, we missed each other on the platform and it was only when I was walking out of the station that I bumped into her and Ira upstairs. Glad to have found them, we caught a train into Frankfurt centre, had some breakfast, argued with a very fastidious guy on the ticket counter, then boarded a train to Mannheim. It was morning rush hour and the trains were busy, but thankfully having a Rottweiler with you always seems to guarantee you a fair amount of space. We changed trains and continued onto Basel on the border with Switzerland. There we messed up a bit, getting off at the German town of Basel rather than the one slightly further on in Switzerland and missing our connecting train to Bern, but it didn't really matter.

By now, Carita had been travelling for 36 hours since leaving Finland with very little sleep and we were both beginning to feel exhausted. We had to keep on moving, however, as it was Friday and the last ferry to Ibiza for three days was leaving Barcelona on the Saturday night. Basel turned out to be a bit of a nightmare; the station didn't seem to have any signs to direct you to the ticket office, it appeared to be designed like a concrete nuclear bunker and the luggage trolleys didn't take euros so we had to carry all of our bags around the station trying to find out where to buy onward tickets to France. By the time we found the right office we were just in time to miss the next train and so we sat downstairs in the subterranean atmosphere, eating McDonalds at hugely inflated Swiss prices until finally, hours later, the train to Geneva pulled in.

The journey through Switzerland was, however, stunning as the train sped through valleys that looked like they were straight from a chocolate advert, past Swiss cottages, snow-capped mountains, and finally Lake Geneva. Ira, meanwhile, was busy terrorising everyone in the train - refusing to let people past to go to the toilet and demanding all the food that anyone was carrying. Somewhat terrified, most of them paid up. In Geneva, we had another change and happily got onto our last train of the day to Lyon. We had been hoping to keep on going and take the sleeper across France until we found out that because we were travelling with a dog we were obliged to take an entire sleeping compartment in France, costing 400-500 euros. So instead we booked into an Ibis Hotel close to the railway station in Lyon, had a walk around some of the town, then crashed out for the night.

The following morning we made an early start and headed to the train station. It was bad news, however, as they told us the only train going to Barcelona that day arrived there at 2150 - and the ferry to Ibiza left at 2300! Not only that, but taking dogs on trains in Spain was illegal. It looked like we would have to figure out another way to do the last section of the trip. Undeterred though, we headed off to Arcachon, which was at least in the right direction, hopeful that something would work out. Just as we were about to board the train though, I noticed that they hadn't sold me a ticket for the trip so I rushed back down to the booking office, jumped the queue, bought a ticket, and managed to get back in time to jump on the train.

Arcachon seemed to be a better start to the day. Not only was it's TGV station shiny and new, but it had luggage trolleys (the first we'd found in a French station), and the girl in the ticket office seemed more than happy to sell us a ticket on the evening train from Perpignan to Barcelona for Ira (oblivious to the regulations undoubtedly!). We then jumped on and off a series of trains until we got to Perpignan where we sat, waited, got ripped off for two beers, and waited some more. Eventually it was time to leave, the train rolled off, and we caught our first sight of the Mediterranean. We passed flamingos wading in the lagoons by the coast as we approached the Pyrenees and finally the Spanish border. Spanish officials boarded the train, asked to see our passports, but don't even look inside them. The train then sat still for what seemed like an eternity until finally it slowly continued towards Barcelona. We worked out that we were running about fifteen minutes late, and our hopes of managing to catch the ferry began to fade.

At last Barcelona appeared and we rushed out of the train, through the station, and out into the street. Desperately, we tried to find a taxi but it was Saturday night and none of them would stop. We stood in the street for what seemed like an eternity, watching the little time we had to catch the ferry tick away, and thinking that we'd never get a taxi in time. Finally, however, one of them stopped for us, we piled the bags into the boot, Ira onto the back seat, and jumped in. We got to the ferry terminal at 22:20, and the ferry was due to leave at 23:00. We didn't know if the ticket office was still open, but Carita rushed in to try to buy them while I took care of the luggage. Amazingly, they were open and we got tickets and headed for the ferry. On the way, another passenger told us that the ferry went from the third floor and we spent valuable minutes searching for the upper floors that didn't exist before we realised that she was spaced out.

Delighted, we boarded the ferry, glad that we didn't have to wait in Barcelona for three days until the next one, and happy to be almost there. After a stop in Palma the next morning, it was lunchtime by the time we got into Ibiza. There we caught another ferry over to Formentera, and finally, finally, got back to Zamindar, 12 trains and 2 ferries since I'd met Carita in Frankfurt 56 hours before.

Comments


Well done indeed to all three of U
a "most excelent adventure".
U all deserve a rest I am sure Ira
will enjoy swimming round the boat.

Love and Kisses

cD XXX

Heres a cute link
http://www.therockalltimes.co.uk/2004/02/02/safety-cameras.html

thx simon... yeah it was quite a trip!
good link - can the government really be wrong about speed cameras??

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