By-passing the Flamingos

Visiting Disneyland was just the start of it. Our next trip after that was a much more ambitious one, involving a few nights in Paris followed by a lengthy train journey across France and all the way to Barcelona and back. By that time we were seasoned Eurostar travellers. While in Paris we sampled various other forms of transport, including the batobus, the Metro and, best of all, a trip boat on the Canal Saint Martin.

Canal Saint Martin
Going into a lock on the Canal Saint Martin

Coincidentally it was just outside the Musée d’Orsay, housed in a former railway station, that we had a family row started by me and probably caused by trying to visit too many museums in one day.  The museum still looks just like a station.

Musée d'Orsay
Musée d’Orsay interior

Luckily by the time we boarded our TGV at the Gare de Lyon for the next part of our journey, that was all forgotten. You can book right through from Paris to Barcelona. I’m not sure if it’s always necessary to change trains at Montpellier, where there were some rather pretty trams and a useful bag shop inside the station for people whose travel bags had fallen apart on the way.  We enjoyed the section on the TGV better than the rest, but later I became fascinated by the lagoons and flamingos we caught sight of during the trip along the southern French coast, and I began to wonder if we should have got off the train there to investigate instead of carrying on with a journey that became particularly tortuous at the Spanish border at Portbou, where I think the wheels were changed over to a different gauge and armed soldiers came through the carriages.

Barcelona sunrise
Barcelona sunrise

But of course it is always worthwhile going to Barcelona! I even managed to visit some more museums, and I thoroughly recommend the Picasso Museum and the Barcelona Museum, where there are real Roman ruins in the lower levels and you can walk round them.

estacio franca
Estacio Franca – waiting for the night train

We had decided to travel back on the night train or Trenhotel from Barcelona to Paris. One tip for Barcelona (though this may well have changed by now) is that there weren’t any left luggage facilities at the Estacio Franca, and we had to go over to the other station, Barcelona-Sants, to deposit our bags for the day so that we could spend some more time sight-seeing, and then go back to collect them later.

As we spent all night and then all day travelling constantly, it turned out to be one of those times when we really enjoyed going first class from London to Edinburgh. I think all we were fit for by then was drinking coffee and eating whatever the train staff brought us.