Day 16 – The Iberians AVE It

I awake at crack of dawn again. We are parked but I’m not really paying attention. We are at Port Bou and we are undergoing a transformation. Gauge conversion. Our Talgo carriages can actually change the width of their axels. That news either floats your boat or it doesn’t. Through the tunnel to Cerbère and we are into Spain. Catalunya to be precise. A morning’s high speed sight seeing and lunch break in Barcelona await.

First job is to get all the bags from Estacion de Franca where we have just arrived, to Barcelona Sants where we will depart for Madrid in another 5 ½ hours. Metro passes acquired we get to shiny new Sants station and dispense with the bags. Free play is declared and those who haven’t seen the Sagrada for 10 years go to see how it’s getting on. Others go to the beach. Darren employ’s his now tried and trusted method of locating a Guinness serving pub and is subsequently overwhelmed with hospitality.

I proceed to do Barcelona’s most iconic tourist attraction with Mick, Dave and Steve. The Sagrada Familia has made great progress over the last decade, it no longer appears more building site than cathedral. If you fancy having a look and not spending most of your day in the epic queue spanning most of  the buildings perimeter, I suggest you chose a Tuesday in October, and not a Sunday in July. Museums and places of worship are explicitly prohibited in the TGV terms of issue. I would have unquestionably needed intensive care if I’d had to wait in that queue for hours. We engage in some unrewarding metro tourism by way of the funicular on the metro, which is really a launch pad for the cable car which we don’t really have the time or energy for. So we retreat to nearby the station and a shady café. Paellas are consumed, beers are sunk and we all do our best to keep going. On old Yahoo! colleague meets us in the sunshine.

Photo @ Paul Clarke

Photo @ Paul Clarke

Back to Sants and bags are collected before we have to go through airport style security to get on our next train, the high speed AVE to Madrid. It’s a very flashy train. Before long we are nudging 300 kmh according to the in-carriage speedometer. We decide to delve into the picnic supplies and then we discover a tragedy. My bags have been carried, since I forgot when, by everyone else.  I can manage to roll my super lightweight suitcase along a platform, but the two heavily stocked picnic bags are everyone else’s responsibility. Probably during the security phase at Sants one of the bags, the one with all the cheese and chocolates, has been abandoned. It is sad news, though I at least feel less guilty about troughing my way through the chocolates for my breakfast earlier while the world slept.

Lloyd Shepherd

Lloyd Shepherd

Lloyd Shepherd

The high speed views of spaghetti western country contrast with anything we’ve seen to date. The AVE zooms across precipitous viaducts at full whack. We then hit heavy rain on the plain in Spain. We have to slow down, to a mere 280 kmh. At 170 mph, torrential rain becomes sucked horizontally down the sides of the carriages. It feels like we are in a supersonic submarine. This is one very impressive train. After just a few hours of this we are at atochas, and capital No. 22 of 23. All we are fit for by this stage is to perform another station, metro, station city traversal and then hopefully locate somewhere near Chamartin station to have tapas. Which we do. Too much tapas of every variety is ordered. Everything is eaten.

We stagger back into the station and board our sleeper to Portugal. The bar is located and a few drinks are had with incredulous Australian, or were these American, tourists. Then, before you can say “back to back British winners of the Tour de France” we are all zonked out.

Tomorrow Portugal and Lisbon, our final target before we bank north for the dash back to Blighty.

Start: Port Bou on the French Spanish border having our boggies played with.
Train 41 – continued sleeper from Paris
Train 42 – 15:25 Barcelona to Madrid
Train 43 – 22:25 Madrid to Lisbon sleeper
Finish: On a sleeper bound for Lisbon

Also on this day
Paul’s Photos http://www.flickr.com/photos/paul_clarke/sets/72157634747403979/
Darren’s Blog http://blog.darrenf.org/2013/07/barca-loner.html
Dave’s Blog http://disorientateddave.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/scorchio.html

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