Saturday, July 11, 2009

Travel Day

I got on the bus from Pamplona to San Sebastian as planned and it went real smooth. As soon as Ant and I arrived we dropped off our bags and headed for some food. After having toast and coffee and strolling through the beach, I picked up my bag at Ant’s hotel and headed to the train station. I got there at 12:45. With my train scheduled to leave at 1:25, 45 minutes is plenty of time to settle down prior to departure. And so that was not to be the case.

As soon as I got to the train station, I wanted to validate my French Pass Train Ticket. As I waited in line I started to converse to a group of Americans from Chicago who were in front of me. They got to the ticket window and asked for a ticket into France. The person at the window directed them to the other train station. I didn’t listen to their conversation as I spoke to the one gal in their group. There are two train stations in San Sebastian. I’m not sure how much Spanish they know, but I trusted them and followed them to the other train station. It’s a 15 min walk and I wasn’t too concerned since I still had time. We left that station at 12:50 and took a lazy walk to the other station. I continued to chat with the gal the in the group as the other 3 guys looked at me like I was some punk guy trying to get at her. As a matter of fact, she was the one who approached me first. I just continued to talk to her. I tried to talk to the guys, but they kept giving me the whatever attitude. Any case, we got to the train station at 1:15 and I immediately wished them a safe journey as I headed to the monitor to see what platform my train leaves from. After finding it, I headed for the platform. As I got to the platform I noticed something different: Stalls. In order to get through the stalls to the platform area, a special ticket is required. I turned around and headed to the ticket booth and spoke to the cashier. With the group of Americans standing in the area looking confused, the cashier told me I was in the wrong station. Right then and there I looked at the 3 American guys who earlier were giving me the cold shoulder and said, “This is the wrong station. This station is for the local trains but still can get you to the border of Spain/France.” They replied with, “Shit, we just came from there (the other station).” The gal looked at me and apologized while the guys still looked confused. I replied, “It’s alright, no worries” and I rushed out the station and looked for a cab. I found a cab and told him my train leaves in 10 min. He laughed and said don’t worry, I’ll get you there in 5 min. He was true to his word and got me there in 5 min. During the 5 min ride the driver said there are two stations, one local and one that goes through the other countries. I told him that I knew that and I was originally at the correct station but I listed to some stupid Americans and followed them with out asking the ticket agent. He laughed again.

I hopped out of the cab and headed to the platform area. Looking around I approached a security guard working the station and asked him if I was in the right platform. He said yes. I then saw a group of Australians and asked them where they were headed. They were headed the same direction as I and then told me the train is late.

As I waited, there was a couple who were rushing into the platform as well. They looked at me and asked if this was the correct platform to Hendaye. I said yes. They were breathing hard and said, “we just ran from the other station.” I laughed as I told them I just went through the same thing. After conversing a bit it turned out there they were headed to the same destination as I – Bourdeaux. We then talked about the connecting Train and wondered if were going to make it. With the current train running late and the connecting train leaving 10 minutes after the scheduled arrival at the transfer point (Hendaye), things were looking a bit sketchy. The train destined for Hendaye finally arrived. I got to my seat and spoke to the rail conductor. She asked if I spoke English. I said yes. She was very helpful as I described my situation to her. She spoke to her manager and told me that I’ll have enough time to get to the train. She gave me mineral water as I relaxed in my 1st class seat.

When I arrived at Hendaye, I rushed to the ticketing area to look for the auto stamp machine to validate my French Pass ticket. There were 2 but both were not operating. I rushed to the ticket booth and the cashier was looking at me crazy. I showed her my ticket. She pointed at the train out side the window and said,n It's too late, they’re closing the door." I said, "I just need a stamp on my pass." She immediately stamped it and I ran out side and jumped in, just as the door was closing. With sweat running down my forehead, and shirt sweat forming on my back and shoulders from my back pack, I was finally relieved to be on the train as I looked for my seat; a comfortable 2 and a half hour train ride in peace.