It was not possible to go home by train from Barcelona with my bike, but there were 2 other options. Either I could catch the overnight ferry to Genoa in Italy and regional trains from there to Brenner changing twice, or I could fly home from Barcelona to Memmingen by Ryanair. Obviously the 2nd option sounded considerably more attractive and there was not a vast difference in price. However to fly on Friday would have meant spending my one and only day in Barcelona trying to find a bike shop to provide me with a box and take my bike apart, also I would have had to fasten all my luggage together in such a way that it only counted as one piece. Could I count on there being someone at the airport with that plasic foil? Quite honestly I thought it was too much hassle. There were no flights on Saturday and after not liking Lloret I didn’t think I would want to stay 3 days in Barcelona (as it turned out I loved it there). So I decided on the ferry. I managed to get my ticket on Thursday morning. Again there were several options: a pullmann seat or a cabin with a considerable price difference or the compromise I chose – one of four berths in a ladies’ cabin, almost expecting to be alone, as I didn’t think there would be many ladies chosing this option.
On the day I pottered round the old town again, but soon got nervous and headed for the port. On my overpunctual arrival at check-in, I was told to go to the car park where I joined the motorcyclists. On boarding I was directed by smart uniformed staff to my deck, where I was given my key. There were several young men wearing black trousers and white shirts and one was told to take me to my cabin. As I didn’t hand over my rucksack, he just pointed, telling me to keep going right back and turned around. He’d obvioisly been wanting to carry my luggage for a tip!
I had just got into the cabin, in which only the 2 bottom births were made up, when the door opened and a younger lady came in – Lauren from Australia. We got on well instantly and ended up going for dinner together in the nice restaurant rather than the self-service. This being my last evening I went for the best steak.
The stairs on the ship were beautifully carpeted and I’d seen signs for swimming pool, exclusive fitness club, beauty salon etc. so I thought I was on a cruise ship. I set off really excited to find my way around and what a disappointment! The pool had rubbish in it and was covered with a net, through the parts of the beauty salon windows not covered in paper you could see a sofa and a load of metal crates and the fitness club had been turned into a mosque. Of more than two thirds of the passengers the ladies were wearing headscarves and the men long robes. On the deck where the rooms of pullman-seats were, people were lying on the corridor floors with sleeping bags and it smelt of urine. Lauren and I were so glad we had paid the extra to be able to lock up our stuff and have our own ensuite. Using combined efforts we managed to turn the air-conditioning down, as it was like a fridge at first. At night there was a turkish sounding disco directly under our cabin but thanks to earplugs I had an excellent night’s sleep!
As the ferry was due to land at 7, I was rather hopiong to get the 7:53 train, although I did realise that it would be a bit tight. However they announced in the evening that landing time would be 8:15 and that still hadn’t changed by the morning, probably due to the strong winds. In any case it took over an hour to disembark so I wouldn’t have made it anyway. This meant a 5 hour wait in Genoa which went extremely quickly. I had bought my ticket and was walking to the town thinking of coffee. Just as I came to a small cafe it started to rain, so I put the rain covers over my paniers and locked up my bike. I was hardly inside when the heavenss opened, so after the coffee I ordered a fresh orange juice, charged my phone and read a book. After a good half hour the sun came out and I had a very pleasant walk in the interesting old town. I don’t know how I managed to wander so far, but consulting the map I had picked up at the tourist office, I started to get a bit worried that I would miss my train. However I even had time for spaghetti in a quaint little taverna near the station.
The train journey itself was long but quite OK except for all the stairs at the stations and the high steps into the trains. (as opposed to Switzerland where there were ramps), but people were so helpful and assisted me carrying Bonny (*) with all her luggage. The change at Milan went surprisingly well, as according to Austrian rail I would have had a 2 hour wait, but the ticket clerk in Genoa had given me an earlier connection with only 7 minutes to change platforms. The hiccup came in Verona where I had nearly half an hour to change and even went for a coffee, while waiting on the wrong platform! When the train was called out nothing showed on the display, I looked again at the depatures board and had to go down stairs, run the whole length of the corridor and up another flight of stairs. I just made it, again with help, by the skin of my teeth.
My husband, Peter met me at Brenner and took me and Bonny home, where the were long red roses waiting on the table!
* Bonny was the name I gave my bike on my last trip to England.