Barcelona to Figueres to Barcelona to Valencia; Missing a train after running through the train station; Stagnant water; Museu Dalí; Night bus and not much sleep, again

A very busy day today. We woke up early (though not early enough, as it turned out later), had breakfast and headed to the bus station to drop our packs in a locker. Our plan was to leave the bags at the bus station, head to the train station to catch a train to Figueres, spend the day there and return, go back to the bus station and catch a bus to Valencia. Getting to the bus station was a bit of a hike - farther than we thought it was - and the subway was a bit confusing because many lines use the same platform. We wasted fifteen or twenty minutes making sure we were getting on the right train, and we got to the train station only two or three minutes before the train to Figueres left. We got our tickets and ran frantically through Barcelona Sants station trying to find an overhead sign to tell us which direction our platform was. When we finally found one it was right beside the ticket counter, so we’d made a huge circle for no reason. We arrived on the platform after the train had vanished from the departure board and made a split-second decision not to go through the ticket gate, because if we had missed the train as seemed likely, we’d have to wait for the next one on the platform. We trudged back outside the station and found a municipal park to wait out the hour.

The ‘park’ was a huge sunken concrete plaza with a few Art Deco towers separating it from the station and a filthy, stinking pool of stagnant green-brown scum that was once water, surrounding a steel three-headed dragon sculpture. I climbed some steps and edged around the water to get some shots of the sculpture, praying all the while that none of it would touch me even for an instant. I can’t imagine what I would have smelled like if it had. The dragon sculpture turned out to be a huge slide, which we discovered when we saw a girl in her twenties slide down it and blister her ass on the burning hot metal. A kinder soul would have felt sorry for the poor girl, but I thought it was funny.

We caught the next train, if only just, and were on our way to Figueres, which turned out to be twice as long a train ride as the hour we’d thought it was (and had counted on). By the time we got to Figureres it was too late to see the Dalí museum and then catch a train back to Barcelona in time to get a bus to Valencia at any decent hour, so the night bus it would have to be. We floundered around the town in the company of two American girls asking “Donde esta lo Museu Dalí” every thirty seconds and finally found the place.

The Dalí Museum is an appropriately odd building, decorated on the outside with dozens of giant gold eggs and thousands of round loaves of bread. Dalí built and stocked it himself in a delightful act of egotism - who builds a museum to himself? It’s filled with exactly the sort of profane surrealism you’d expect from Dalí. The exterior courtyard has an old black car overgrown with plants that fills with water when a coin is inserted, surmounted by a huge fertility idol. Another showpiece is the room the furniture in which, when viewed from above, forms a gigantic representation of the face of Mae West. Sheryl discovered a peephole behind another diorama, through which you could see a green-lit jungle filled with plush animals. The lower two floors had a lot of his sketches, sculptures, and the occasional painting.

It was great fun and we spent a few hours there before realizing that we’d have to run back to the train station if we were going to make even the late train. And run we did, getting mildly lost a few times, but finally arriving at the station hot and breathless only to find that we’d misread the schedule and the train didn’t arrive for another twenty minutes or so. Certainly a day for train-related foolishness.

On the ride back to Barcelona, the weather got rainier and rainier every minute until finally we were watching rivers flood with brown water and roads washing away. Later we were told that the flooding was all through northern Spain - we’d been only just outrunning the southern edge of it. Barcelona itself was fine, though still wet. We had a couple of hours to kill before our night bus, and so I asked Sheryl to dinner at a place called Foodball that I’d found in our guidebook. I liked the concept - all the food, including dessert, is supposed to be served in balls. It sounded like fun to me and I would have liked to eat there, but unfortunately it was nowhere to be found and we had to wander the streets looking for food. This was 10pm and nothing was open - so much for Barcelona’s famous late-night food culture. We looked everywhere we could on the way from Las Ramblas to the north bus station and found only a couple of very expensive places and one very dodgy place. I was getting very hungry by this point, and Sheryl was practically comatose. Finally we found a bar across from the station that had some tapas left and we decided to settle for it. There was some sort of fried, breaded mystery meat that the bartender claimed was pollo, and thank god potatoes. It kept us alive and stopped Sheryl from falling over, though her stomach was predictably upset.

While we were eating, the heavy rain reached Barcelona and began to come down in sheets. The street was full of water and the drops were so big and heavy that they hurt when they hit you. We were soaked instantly as we ran across the street to the terminal, but we had an hour to wait for the bus so we were able to dry out. The bus was more or less as expected - an eight-hour night bus ride. I pissed off some Moroccan guys by rustling through my bag and dropping things everywhere several times - Sheryl wasn’t too impressed either. There was some grotesque snoring fat man with bowel problems sitting behind us. We didn’t realize the bus had a washroom until halfway through the trip, but stops were frequent enough that we weren’t forced to use it anyway. I slept on and off, and Sheryl drifted for a few minutes here and there, waking half in a panic each time. As I say, a fairly typical night bus ride.

Chris Liberty - Dispatches from a Gentleman Adventurer
Being the internal dialog of a vagabond who chased his own tail across five continents for 4 years and 2 days from May 2008 to May 2012, in search of something that never really became clear.
This travelogue comprises 16,426 photographs and 402,515 words in 307 dispatches written from 335 places in 52 countries on 6 continents around the world.
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