By TheOttawacker

A big day of travel

My departure from Málaga, which wasn’t as bad as usual because I knew I was heading into France. And that is always a good thing. For some reason, I am incapable of getting a good night’s sleep before a day of travel, and it was the same thing here. Despite the drinks at the Suerte Vistafranca café, I slept badly, and was awake well before my 6.30am alarm. In fact, I had time to go for a walk around the ‘hood before having a shower and making coffee… so it gives you an idea of how early it was.

Got the train into Málaga Maria Zambrano station, which was only one stop. I had breakfast there, and then got the 8:05 am fast train to Madrid, getting in astoundingly at 10:43. I’m old enough to remember when it took the best part of the day and you had to transfer by mule at Toledo. In fact, the whole transformation of the Spanish rail system is incredible. 

I may have told you this before, but one year, in the early 1990s, I was in San Sebastian, and I wanted to travel to Bilbao to visit a friend. Naively, I assumed that traveling 105 km to a city on the same coast would be easy by train. But no, I was told I would have to change.

“Fair enough,” I asked. “Where?”
“In Madrid,” came the answer.

I was so shocked, I agreed to do it. And so spent the best part of a night on a rickety old train to get to Madrid, and then the best part of the next day on an even ricketier old train getting to Bilbao. But what an experience. It was worth it just to use that anecdote here.

Anyway, I hung around Atocha station for a couple of hours, before being allowed into the departures lounge and catching the 13:25 direct train from Madrid, via Barcelona, to Nîmes, getting in at 8:23. I’d looked forward to this journey, as I used to travel a lot by train and now only rarely get the chance. And it was fine. But traveling by fast train isn’t the same as by slow (stop rolling your eyes at me). It’s not just the speed. I used to love coming into strangely named stations, wondering what was happening in the place, what it looked like. But on this train, we only stopped in Zaragoza and Tarragona and places of that size. The train only stopped for a few minutes in Barcelona, and then went off more slowly than before, stopping at Girona and Figueres, Perpignan and Narbonne, Béziers and Montpellier. And then Nîmes.

At Nîmes, I jumped a taxi to my hotel – the Royal Hôtel in place d’Assas – hauled my cases up two stories (because the monks who built this former cloister didn’t do any forward planning for a lift) – and then went out to find a place to eat.

By 9, I was in the Carré de Jazz, just opposite the splendidly lit Maison Carré. By 9:30, I was in love with the city. I ate, had a carafe of the local Côtes du Rhône, and even splurged on a Laphroaig as a digestif. I skipped back to the hotel, skyped with the Ottawackers, and crashed in the most comfortable of beds.

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