Published: January 13th 2011December 25th 2010
Find this train agent in Figueres and your problems will be solved - with a smile.
The day before - as perceived by Nancy
It was exciting to ride on the train from Prague to Spain but it wasn't totally full of fun. The first leg from Prague to Zurich went quite well even though the sleeping car was for 6 people not the normal 4 so we were unable to sit up and talk (the headroom between bunks was too low for sitting up). But basically I went to sleep soon after we started and slept till morning. The train station in Zurich was so lovely with a Christmas market and a fantastic crystal Christmas tree that the fact that the temperature was well below freezing INSIDE the station didn't really matter much.
The ride through Switzerland was really great with beautiful scenery outside the window all day long. I loved the small towns, houses out in the countryside, snow covered mountain peaks, glimpses of hiking trails that made me want to hop off the train and start a long walk, etc. The even colder train station in Milan, Italy was also interesting but after an hour or so I felt like an icicle. The trip seemed to go downhill when the conductor on
Just a sign at the station so folks will know where the train has stopped.
the Milan-Figueres leg of the trip told me I might have to spend the night without a room since I wasn't a man (which my ticket said I was quite clearly in German!) The two great guys who agreed to the scandal of a woman in their room helped a lot to make me happier. Then the near disaster of the conductor giving us the wrong passports and our almost getting off the train with them had me sort of unsure about this whole business of traveling to Spain for Christmas holidays.
The next two and a half days
We went into the train station hungry, a little tired and needing to use the bathroom. We had paid quite a sum to use those facilities in Switzerland and Italy. Guess what? Spanish train stations, even small stations in small towns like Figueres, have clean, well stocked FREE bathrooms. That was nice. We saw a little cafe in the train station and took a look at the offerings. We had breakfasted on fruit and nuts we carried with us and we wanted a cup of coffee. We got bottles of orange juice, coffee and a open faced sandwich which appeared to be a cheese sandwich. I had little hopes for anything tasty - I mean how good can a cold cheese sandwich be? - But the lady behind the counter heated it and cut it in two. It was practically ambrosia from the gods. I now wish we had bought another as we left Figueres since we never found another like it anywhere during our trip. We had no idea of the type of cheese or what else went into the layer on top of the bread but it was fantastic!
We had no plans for going to Valencia when we left Prague. But one look at the weather on the TV in our hotel room convinced us we needed to avoid Madrid (snow storm with drifts and a total mess plus freezing cold temperatures) and the Seville area (terrible floods). So we went to the train station to see about buying tickets to some warm spot on the eastern coast of Spain. We choose Valencia because the guidebook made it sound quite interesting. There were no trains the next day but a VERY helpful, pleasant train agent got us tickets for the first train the following day. He was having to work long hours as we learned later but he acted as if we were his only concern and gave us his total attention and help. When we returned on Christmas Eve hoping he could change my ticket for the trip home to a female car to avoid trouble, there he was again. At first he said the kind of ticket we had couldn't be changed but then grabbed his manuals and read for a long time. He then got on his computer and worked some kind of magic and got us two different rooms - male for Bill and female for me. Again he was just over-the-top helpful. When we found him still at his desk working away on Christmas morning, I asked if I could take his picture and he wanted to know then where the picture would end up. Bill said "America". He was OK with that. I said, "Probably the Internet. " We waved goodbye to one of the folks we will never forget. He helped us begin to know how kind and helpful we would find people to be in Spain.