Friday, October 18, 2013

At The Train Station

In A Writer’sParis, Eric Maisel explains that he likes to write in public places and that for him, bus stations, especially those with international connections work well.  There, he says, “every few minutes a drama unfolds.”

As it was, the first drama of my recent trip to France unfolded at the train station in Figueres, before I had even left town, as I was waiting to catch an early morning train north to Cerbere for the first leg of my journey.

A few drops had just started to fall as I left home, although not enough to open an umbrella.  But before long real rain was coming down and my umbrella went up.  I kept myself relatively dry and figured the suitcase would take care of itself.  Later, when I unpacked in Avignon, I found that suitcases do not necessarily take care of themselves and some of my clothing had become wet.  But that wasn’t the drama.

At the station there was, as is usually the case, a very long line to buy tickets from the single open window.  And as always, there was an employee walking the room to tell us that if we were paying in cash, we could buy our tickets on the train (theoretically if you don’t board with a ticket in hand, you face a fine).  I chose to forgo the line and board.  My ticket to Cerbere, France would cost 1.90 euros and I had enough cash for that.

Waiting at the platform for my train, the promised drama began to unfold.  The train for Barcelona begins its run at this station and was sitting, available to be boarded.  To reach it from the station, one had to descend the stairway, pass under the tracks, and climb back up on the other side.  At the top of the stairs at the station end stood a man with a large suitcase.  His wife was some feet behind him, evidently hesitating to take the plunge.  He was shouting at her and she was shouting back at him, but to add emphasis to her point of view, she was also stamping her foot. 

The drama would have been more complete if I could actually hear what they were saying.  Unfortunately, I was too far away to hear what they said or even what language they were shouting it in.  I presumed that their dispute had to do with whether or not to board the train without having bought their tickets at the station.  Then again, they could have been arguing about anything, as couples do.  However, unlike my own train that still had some minutes before its scheduled departure, theirs was just about to leave.

When the loudspeaker announced that the train was departing imminently, she gave way.  He, having a head start, arrived at the train first, but the doors had already closed.  Now we were getting to the real drama.  Would the train leave without them?  And if it did, how would the two react?

But the station master quickly put an end to my drama.  He called out to the engineer to open the door, and the two were let on.

With my drama thus deflated, I was left with my own thoughts and expectations for the week ahead.  There would be no drama with a companion.  I was travelling alone.  There would be no arguments, no compromises.  For me, travelling alone is easy in some ways and difficult in others.  I have done it many times now, and I love the freedom to plan my own itinerary, set my own schedule, and do things at my own pace.  But evenings alone can be difficult and of course, there is no one to share impressions with.

First sojourn would be in the monumental, riverside town of Avignon.  I’ve been there so many times now that it’s become my home away from home. 

The Hotel Colbert
My room off the patio was through
the small brown door at the back

Colorful city-run bike sharing

Oh my!

One of several favorite restuarants

Coming up from behind the
Palais du Papes

The Popes haven't always lived in Rome
Sometimes they lived here in Avignon

Le Chapelier Toque, another
favorite restaurant and probably the best

Baba au Rhum to die for
I was so anxious to taste it I didn't wait to take the photo
N.B.  The train station in the photo above is not Figueres -- it's the much prettier Portbou.


  1. Great story, great photos. That hotel is pretty. I thought PortBou station was pretty, particularly the walk down to steps into the narrow street. It was drizzly and we were anxious to get a taxi to Cerbere, the day of the strike, that I didn't take a photo. I still regret it!

    1. Just another reason to come for another trip one of these days. Once you've seen an area, you have a better idea of where to spend more time exploring and finding the smaller things.