From Madrid we took off and the first train to Barcelona that got us there around ten in the morning. On our way to the beach (By this time we were tired of traveling and pretty smelly since we had only showered once in four days so we didnt feel like much sightseeing just laying out) we stopped at an internet cafe. While checking our email I overheard a couple talking about the problems they were having getting a train to Paris. I asked them what the problem was and they told me that no trains were running in France that day because there were strikes going on. This freaked us out, with all the other problems with trains we had the last thing we wanted was not to be able to get back to London, lose the deposit on our bus out of Paris, and have to buy a bus ticket to Paris (which is a 16 hour ride). We went back to the train station and asked everyone we could find about it, but never got a straight answer. Since European trains are so international, you would think there would be better organization between countries. They are not. All the Spanish rail workers told us that those were French trains and they had no information on them. So we decided to go to the beach and come back to the station later. We had until 1:30 in the morning to figure it out, that was when the last bus to Paris left that would get us there on time to get us on our bus to London.
The rest of the day was amazing. The weather could not have been better. We both got pretty sunburned, but it was so relaxing. That evening we got dinner at a bar along the waterfront and then wandered around the boardwalk and the marina. There was live music everywhere and the atmosphere was very fun. We sat for awhile and listened to a band play Spanish music. They were really good and entertaining. After that we went back and sat on the beach for awhile.
This trip has been kind of an interesting sociological experience/experiment. For about a week Brian and I lived pretty much like homeless men. You look at the world differently when you do not know where you will be sleeping that night. Also after four days with no shower we looked pretty ragged. On a few occasions that night we had homeless men join us as we sat by the beach. It was really interesting to hear their stories and their outlook on life. Just a few hours before we had been on that same beach as tourists, these men were wandering around constantly trying to sell us coke and beer. It became rather obnoxious. After spending an hour talking with these guys on the beach I saw them in an entirely different life. It made me wish that I would have bought more drinks from them. The saying that you don't understand someone until you've walked a mile in their shoes held very true for us. Its something I hope to continue to do, see everyone as an equal no matter their position in life.
That night we returned to the train station and were very blessed. We went into the customer service office to ask about the French train situation that nobody knew anything about. I had even called the train station information center twice that day and talked with five different people, none of which even know that there were strikes going on in France. The head of the station just happened to be in the customer service when we walked in there, he also was the only man that had any idea of what was going on in all of Barcelona. He told us that the strikes may very well continue through the next day, but that there were certain trains that would make it to Paris because they were with a different company. The thing is most of them were full. The biggest problem would be finding a train that would actually cross the border. He told us which trains to get on that we wouldnt need a reservation that would take us to the French/Spain border. It wasnt much of a train, but more like a subway type train that stopped at all of the beaches along the coast. He then told us to get off at a certain train station where we would be able to board a train that would take us across the border. He told us to get on it there and not in Barcelona because in Cerberes there was no security control and we would be able to get on it without a reservation (we figured it was the head of the train station telling us to do it it was ok to sneak on), and that if there were any problems just to hang out in the train bar (where they dont check for tickets) until the next stop. From there we were able to talk to a french railway attendant who would be able to help us get back to Paris. He then told us to stay in his office when the security cleared out the station so that we could spend the night there. It was a relief to know that we were most likely going to make it back to Paris, and that we weren't going to have to spend anymore money.
The beach we spent all day at
Listening to live music at the marina
Out on the pier