July 6, 2019: Travel Day from Paris to Barcelona

Saturday. GT2 Day Twenty Eight. Barcelona, Spain.

I got a great night of sleep last night. Almost eight hours of total sleep, and two hours and forty five minutes of deep sleep. The no CPAP, nasal strip plan seems to be working out well. Dominica said that I snored some early in the night, but that I changed positions and it was fine after that.

I was up at seven thirty this morning. I feel great after my day of low calories and high exercise. My body really needed that. I laid in bed for a bit after making sure that Flickr and YouTube were still moving forward. About three hundred and fifty more Flickr pictures from Paris posted this morning, but for some reason did not get put into the trip album, so they are going to be hard for people to find. Flickr glitches, it could not quite complete the process, but at least the pictures uploaded.

Three YouTube videos posted during the night, as well. There is only one more, at the moment, that I want to upload and can’t. It is just too large to manage to get posted in the time left here. But only one is pretty good. We were unable to make any more talking videos during our time in Paris because we have a been in a silent “no talking” apartment.

I showered and got myself ready for the day. Dominica got up a little after eight and spent the morning packing. We have the apartment for most of the day, so we can pack up, go out and do things, and leave our luggage here until it is time to head to the train station, which is very nearby and on our local metro line, but we are going to take an Uber because of all of our stuff and not having active metro tickets any longer.

I got all of the pictures currently on my phone uploaded to Flickr this morning, too. That was another forty seven. And I managed to get to the backlog of ones that were missed, which is another one hundred. Who knows what the Internet situation in Spain is going to be like.

Madeline was up and dressed at a quarter after eleven. Then the girls started their packing. They seem to have wanted the morning to just rest. When asked what they wanted to do, it was just “I don’t know.” I would prefer to be out walking and seeing more of the city, but today is going to be warmer, and we do not have unlimited time.

Dominica and I feel that we need to call our Uber to leave for the station at two thirty to make sure that we have plenty of buffer time. Missing a connection just sucks so much. So our activity window is pretty tiny. We need to go eat lunch so that the girls can make the long train ride. Once we get on the train, it will be over seven hours till we have a reasonable way to eat again. Then we are going to the local super market to stock up on snacks and stuff for the train itself. That is easily an hour and a half to even two hours of activity right there.

I managed to even get my phone emptied onto the hard drive this morning so that it is fully ready to go. Only things that are going to be “left to keep going while we are out getting lunch” are charging my Jackery, and uploading the final batch of pictures to Flickr. So no Lumix today, it is packed. It will be phone only for pictures today. No separate backup for me, just the main one. We are heavily consolidated. I am very excited for future travel that there is a possibility that I do not need a CPAP bag to take with me. Carrying that is an immense pain. Yes, it is always a “free bag” on flights, but it is a useless bag that I have to manage every day. And it is really awkward to carry. And not really all that small or light. Getting to travel without that would be amazing.

I forgot to mention yesterday that since leaving Firenze we have not found an ATM (except for in Switzerland, but that would give us Francs instead of Euros which would not be useful) and we were running out of cash. We have to have cash for our check in in Barcelona, and it is pretty useful in general. So we should be all set now, enough cash, we hope, to carry us through until we are done in Europe. ATMs are super hard to find in Paris.

Madeline today discovered that she has been carrying rocks since Crete in her day bag. And she has a jar of Nutella in her backpack. She carries some heavy stuff.

The girls had their bags packed and were ready to leave the apartment at a little after noon. I had been ready to run out the door to take them to see more stuff since just after nine, just in case they had decided that they needed to do more things. But now we are relaxed and ready to just get food, get snacks, and head casually to the train station.

Lunch at Shiso Burger was awesome. Dominica got the salmon and said it was the best food of the entire trip. Madeline got a cheeseburger and also felt that it was her favourite food of the entire trip, I guess she likes Japanese. Emily got a burger as well and liked it. I got the tuna burger and it was quite good, but I’m not sure if I would call it the best food of the trip. The girls split a French fry. Dominica and I split an order of spiraled potatoes. After all of these years, this was our first time getting those.

Then we walked down to the grocery store and spent half an hour getting food supplies. All cookies, candies, and chips for the train. I would have liked to have gotten a sandwich to take for later, but it seemed unlikely that it would remain good for so long in the heat.

We got back to the apartment at one thirty. One hour to kill before we head to the train station. The last one hundred Flickr pictures that I had uploaded completed while we were out. So my upload job is done. I quickly uploaded the six pictures that I took over lunch as well. Time to shut down the laptop and get that and the hard drive packed up. The Jackery is still charging and will be the last thing to get packed before we leave.

By early afternoon it was pushing ninety degrees and very humid. Emily and Dominica struggled to sleep last night from the heat. It just never cooled down. And the little fan and single window in our apartment were just not able to keep up with the cooling demand, especially when the air outside was moderately warm all night. Now with the air hot and the sun coming in through the window, it’s very warm. Good time to be leaving, but it will be not very nice carrying out back packs down six flights of stairs and getting to the train station. Hopefully this train is air conditioned. It is the TGV, again, so we are likely in good shape.

We will be in Barcelona late tonight. Then seeing the city all day Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, and then on Wednesday afternoon we fly back to New Jersey. Only three real days of seeing the sites left to go.

I made a final apartment tour video and we checked out and headed down the six flights of stairs with our backpacks on our backs to go to find an Uber to take us to the train station, Gare de Lyon. The walk was short, but the day was getting warm, so already starting to sweat without even leaving the Latin Quarter.

We got out onto the main road and called the Uber. Took about fifteen minutes to arrive, traffic was moderately heavy. We were picked up in a big Renault, their version of the Nissan Maxima, so we fit easily. And off to the train station we went.

We arrived at Gare de Lyon with an hour to kill before our train was to depart. We have first class tickets so wanted to use the lounge, but that was in Hall 3 and we were in Hall 1 and the girls did not feel like walking any extra, and it is hard to watch the status screens from a different hall. Dominica desperately needed coffee, so we hit Pret a Manger and got some food and coffee for her. At this point, I am completely weened from caffeine again. So I have been avoiding coffee for the most part, I’ve only had maybe four cups this whole month. I got an avocado and pine nut wrap that was really incredible.

We were told that we would be told where our train would go ten minutes before it was scheduled to go. We were doing way better than that. We looked almost twenty minutes before and saw that we had been posted on the board and we were sitting right at the right platform, A. So to be extra safe, we attempted to board fifteen minutes before departure time (five is the norm, ten is often the max possible at a terminal.)

We walked down platform A, but the train there said the wrong train number on it. This is not good. We walked the entire length of the train and found that our train was going to be pushed by this other train and we have to board at the front of the second train. The trains were so long that it was nearly an eight minute walk just to get from the head of the platform to our car on the train. Because we are in first class, we are at the “front” of the train so have to walk the entire length of two trains. Rather a weird punishment for first class. (And it turns out that all of first class has to face backwards for the entire trip, which makes Dominica sick!)

Once we finally got to our car, the people in front of us tried to board and realized that the doors did not open. They were only boarding the train from the other side, but had no information anywhere to tell us that! We didn’t even know that the other side of the train had a platform, because we were on platform A and it was open and the train was labeled for us and everything. Not a single indication that we were not in the right place, none. But every indication that we were in the right place, from other people doing the same thing, to the main boards, to the platform boards, to the signs on the side of the train. Everything. We were 100% sure we were in the right place until the people in front of us panicked and ran.

Remember, this was an eight minute walk with heavy packs on our backs just to get far enough to find out that we were not able to board where we needed to!! That meant that not only did we have to back track eight minutes, but we had to circle around the train, get onto the other side, and do eight minutes along that side of the train, too! So about eighteen minutes to get there, and the train was supposed to leave in much less time than that! We were totally screwed.

We started running and ran the whole length of the train. Dominica almost immediately had an asthma attack because of the running. The girls got to the head of the platform first, with just a minute or two before the train was supposed to leave, but they wouldn’t let us on to that side of the platform without the tickets, which Dominica had in her bag. So they were stuck at the gate. There was a way to just walk between the two sides, but as we tried to just board some guy blocked us and made us go around further, further causing unnecessary delays from not properly labeling or instructing people where to go.

Finally Dominica got there, we showed the tickets, and they told us to run to the first door. We went as fast as we could and the conductor told us that we had to get on to the “wrong” train, the one that is pushing ours, because they were not going to wait for us to get to our own train, even though we had been in the process of boarding for a full fifteen minutes and were clearly in distress.

We lept onto the wrong train, just as the doors closed. So now, what do we do? At least we were on “a” train, but we did not know where it was going or what to do. We figured that since this train is pushing ours, we would have at least one stop where they would need to separate the trains, so our theory was to walk through this train to the very front, be ready to jump off at the first stop, run to the first car of the next train, and board and work our way through that train to get to our seats. There was no conductor to tell us what to do or what was going on. All we knew is that we were sitting in the entry way of a train that was pushing ours and no idea when it would stop, when they would split, where this one was going. Dominica was crying from her asthma attack and her heart was around 130. This whole thing is insane.

Once everyone had settled a bit, we started the hike through the train. Dominica was not doing great, so took my orange backpack and I took her heavy backpack and we walked the entire length of the train being bounced from side to side running into seats. A very tough walk for the four of us. Even I was getting motion sickness from that. And the train was really warm, I was literally drenched in sweat after all of that. There is no moving air and the air temperature is quite high, mid-twenties or higher. Even the girls were really sweating and could not cool down.

We finally got to the very front of the train and met a conductor who explained that yes, we were on the wrong train, that there were “no seats” available as it was full (this was not true), and they told us that the only real option for us was to sit or stand in the cafe car and wait until the next stop where we would need to do what we had thought, run from this train to the next and get on there. The next stop was two hours away!

So for two hours, because of Gare de Lyon’s screw ups, we were not in the first class seats that we paid for, but were instead stuck camped out in a cafe car that was not properly climate controlled and had no power to charge anything. It was awful. Even after two hours of trying not to move and fanning myself with Dominica’s hand fan, the moment I stopped I would start dripping with sweat again, it was that hot. Even Emily’s entire back was wet with sweat, that never happens. It was so hot and everyone was so worked up that we really didn’t eat while there, either. At least SNCF brought us four bottles of water to help out. But we are pretty unhappy, this is by far the worst train situation that we’ve ever had to deal with in all of our years of travel.

At two hours into the trip, in southern France, we worked our way back to the very front of our train, and sat in the well for fifteen minutes to make sure that we were completely ready. And when the train stopped we had three minutes to disembark, cross the length of our cars, two engines, and get past as many cars on the next train as we felt that were safe before it left and then jump on to our own train and, once on, slowly work our way forward the full length of that train to finally find our seats.

Finally, after all this time, we have air conditioning (it is still on the warm side, but just a little, this train is many degrees cooler than the other one, it was shocking how much different the temperatures were kept) and seats. Big first class seats that recline, and have their own dedicated power at each one. Now we can relax. And we could eat our food that we had brought with us.

Internet was very intermittent on the train. These trains all advertise that they offer wifi, which they do. And it is free. But it isn’t wifi that connects to the Internet, which is what everyone means by having wifi. Instead it is wifi that goes to a private network and is useless. So all that we have are our phones connected to the 4G service, and that goes out quite often when going in a train (due to speed, tunnels, remote areas, etc.)

It was a very long day. We are so burned out from that stress. It was about two and a half hours of really high stress and worry that we were not going to make it to Barcelona. Now we know that we are going to make it there, but it has already been a long day of worrying.

Four hours of boring train ride, but at least we got to see lots of Provence.

We arrived in Barcelona on time. The last part of our journey went well. Now we have to find our apartment, which is pretty far from Barcelona Sants, where we arrived. We looked at the metro, but eventually decided on just getting a taxi (there is no Uber here.) But that was easy and not all that expensive.

It was eleven thirty when we got to our apartment. The girls were really hungry, so Dominica and Madeline waited at the apartment for our host to arrive. Emily and I went looking for food. Thankfully it is Barcelona so places stay open very late. We got pizza right around the corner from the apartment, just a margharita for ten Euros, and walked back to the apartment with it.

This apartment is four floors up, quite a bit better than the six floors that we had to deal with in Paris, and the stairs are way better, but it is still a lot of climbing. We ate our pizza and pretty much went straight to bed. We gave the girls the bedroom as the only air conditioner is in the living room and Dominica needs it incredibly cold, and I need air movement but am okay with it being warm. The girls like it so much warmer than we do when sleeping and can’t sleep if it is cool at all (which is weird to me, because I sleep something like forty degrees above my idea temperature just fine.) I can sleep in anything from about thirty to eighty degrees, upper temperatures only if there is air movement. And I just assume that below thirty gets too cold, that’s the coldest that I have tried and it was awesome, so I assume that I could sleep in the twenties just fine, too.

It was a little after midnight when we all got into bed and off to sleep. The apartment is small, but seems pretty good. And the wifi is great, the best Internet service that we have had the entire trip! That is a huge relief.

Tomorrow we are in Barcelona, but that is literally the extent of the plans that I know. I have no idea what we are going to be doing or even when we are getting up.