Sunday, 21 July 2013


7Previously unmentioned in this blog is Jason's predicament. As part of a housekeeping exercise in Zurich he threw the business end of his Interrail pass into the bin in the belief that it was a metro ticket from somewhere or other. The conductor on the Swiss double decker started to make an issue of this but never followed up on it. We then managed to travel from Geneva to Paris without any ticket check. Will his luck hold?

A quick peek at the very splendid Train Bleu restaurant then it is time for a short route march over the Seine to Gare d'Austerlitz where we find a cafe and get stuck into a croque and a beer.  Paris was scorching and we were all pretty tired so nobody felt like exploring anywhere and a bit of light blogging was about as energetic as it got. At around 10 p.m. we crossed the street to board out Trenhotel fo Barcelona. Jason lives to fight another day as only the reservation is required.

The first impression that we get is that the coaches and cabins are a bit cramped and morale takes a further hit when it transpires that the rumoured showers are merely a rumour. At least we are in 4s rather than 6s and we are all around the same state of smelliness. On the plus side this train has the best party coach that we have encountered since Romania and John is soon amusing us with wine juggling tricks. Two Australian couples join in the fun and we are soon trading cricket insults, before one of Sheilas goes on to give us a detailed breakdown of the rules of Australian football. At about 1 a.m. they start packing the bar up so we head for bed.

By the time we wake up we are in Spain and running on broad gauge (5' 6") track. The change over was achieved with a remarkable lack of fuss and are we are underway again. The buffet car is back in business doing breakfast which is pretty good. Barcelona Estacio de Franca is reached ahead of time. John has started a rumour that it will be 37C in Barcelona today. It's probably a few degrees short of that but we are all feeling the heat. Apparently we could have stayed at home for the heatwave gig.

We split into a couple of groups once we have transported our luggage across the city and a few of us go to visit Sagrida Familial, the huge cathedral that has been under construction for about a century. In comparison with ground level the metro is quite cool so we take a ride across the city to try out the funicular up to Muntjuic. This is a bit disappointing as it runs mainly through a tunnel and there are no views at all. We find a shady bench and have a seat for a while before deciding to go for lunch.

A couple of people opt for paella which looks good. A couple of beers go down well and we have some female company for a change. A fomer workmate of Mark and Lloyd turns up to wish us well and she is polite enough not to wrinkle her nose at our rather grubby condition. The test match news is almost too good to belive. Auzsralia chasing nearly 600 are 36 for 3.

It is soon time for us to catch a train,  the Spanish high speed AVE, to Madrid.  There is an airline style check in with X ray machines and yet again Jason makes it on board. Next time we won't bother with tickets.
The AVE is comfortable with good AC but no power or WiFi.  It also shifts a bit, getting over 300 kph at times according to the information display in the coach. This also tells us that the outside temperature has got up to 36C. On board we are watching Salmon Fishing in the Yemen with Spanish subtitles when it dawns on us that a rucsac full of cheese and Swiss chocolate has been left behind somewhere.  On the bright side Australia are now 136  for six.

About an hour out from Madrid the sky turns black and we drive into a heavy rainstorm. In a few minutes the outside temperature drops from 36C to 14C and then slowly starts to climb again. The reading is 31C as we pull into Atocha Station.

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