Sunday, July 27, 2014

Winging it: Train Travel from Girona (Spain) to Carcassonne (France)

I am sometimes an obsessive compulsive travel planner. I’ll admit that I do suffer the nagging feeling of what-ifs. What if I miss out a very important attraction? What if I forgot to try the town’s home-grown delicacy? What if I do not find the market where locals go to? What if there are hidden beautiful gems of architecture that I was not able to see?

So many what-ifs plagues me sometimes. But as I travel and grow old, I learned to let go. I am not as anal as before anymore, but you know, I can still be =)

My train (Renfe) from Girona to the border, Figueres-Villafant, the last train station of Spain before entering France.

I combined the trip to GIRONA, Spain (with a 1-day side trip to Barcelona and a 1-day country & seaside day trip to Figueres, Besalu and Cadaques) with CARCASSONNE, France. The travel itinerary is to fly into Girona airport and after I am done with the Spain leg travel, I will take the train to Carcassonne and then fly out from the airport there.

Below is the map of the train travel between the two destinations (you can move the map with your mouse). I used the car route, which is somewhat the same with train travel (this option was not available in Google maps), but with stops and transfers at Figueres and Narbonne.

With economies of scale growing outside metropolitan areas, the travel and tourism industry gets to take advantage of this. There is more demand on an international level for new air travel destinations. I am thankful for small and budget airlines coming into the travel scene as many fly now to beautiful hard-to-reach places such as Girona (I still have a few entries to post!) and Carcassonne. If we just rely on the standard national carriers, it would take a day or two to get to these places. I am not talking about the costs involved here, I am talking about convenience. The journey is as important as the destination.

Nevertheless, I did not book my train ticket ahead of time. I thought I will just wing it.

I did however bought my train ticket, Girona to Narbonne (France) several hours ahead departure at the Girona train station. There is no direct train Girona (Spain) to Carcassonne (France) and I was informed that I will have to take TWO transfers:

1) The first transfer is at the border, at the Figueres-Villafant (Spain) train station.
2) The second transfer is at the Narbonne (France) train station.

The Girona train station personnel said that I can only buy my Narbonne to Carcassonne train ticket in France. Okay, I am fine with that, although I was a bit worried what time I will arrive in Carcassonne.

Just arrived here at the Figueres-Villafant train station. I am taking the 17:20 train to Paris.

Bumming around at the Figueres-Villafant train station. If you go to Figueres to visit the Dali Theater Museum via train, you get off here. It is in a out-of-the-way location and the only way to get to the city centre is to take a taxi. They are a plenty here, although I can imagine that there is a bus that comes once an hour, perhaps?

I am now going to board the train to Paris and I am getting off at the second stop, Narbonne. This is the tunnel leading to the elevated platforms. They are a bit strict, you go through security here.

My worry is checking in at my hotel in Carcassonne. Actually, it is a small auberge inside the Carcassonne citadel with only two suite rooms and a fine dining restaurant. I am not sure if the owner lives here or if they lock up the place when the restaurant closes. It’s not your usual hotel with a 24-hour reception.

And what if there is no train to Carcassonne anymore when I reach Narbonne? I don’t have internet on my phone. I have a laptop but there is no internet in the train stations. *stress*

But I can’t fast forward time, so I am stuck waiting for my train connections, one cup of coffee after another. I got lucky though when I arrived in Narbonne. There was a regional train leaving for Bordeaux in twenty minutes with a stop (the first stop!) in Carcassonne. Add thirty minutes to that and I will be at my final leg of destination for this holiday.

Beautiful facade of Narbonne train station. I heard they have a lively market in this town. Would have been a nice stopover if I had more time.

I am taking the 18:53 train to Bordeaux and will get off at Carcassonne, its first stop.

In the meantime, I am having a cup of coffee at the Bodega y Estacion here in Narbonne.

I finally arrived 20:22 in Carcassonne and the first thing I did was to call the auberge to inform them that I am coming. The friendly and somewhat relieved man from the auberge said in a very thick French accent, ‘We thought you are not coming anymore!’

Well, I cannot blame the French man. I did say I will arrive somewhere mid-afternoon in my email, haha.

It took me another half an hour to get a cab. There is a taxi stand at the Carcassonne train station but rarely the taxis ply here. Maybe it was just bad timing for me. I kept telling myself everything will be fine and that I will have a bed to sleep for the night.

The French train station facades are really cute and pretty!

Here we are about to enter the fortified city of Carcassonne. The taxi driver had to wait for the stoplight to turn green because the gateway can only fit one vehicle.

Carcassonne is a beautiful fortified town. I cannot wait for morning to come =)

Travel Period: November 2013
Destination: Carcassonne (Languedoc-Rossillon), France

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Happy Travels! Enjoy Life =)

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