I never anticipate travel delays. But lately, I’ve taken to relishing where they will take me. What adventures lie ahead if you’re willing to take the risk, and just go with what happens? I went to get my reservation for my train trip to Coimbra, Portugal and when I finally made it to the SNCF office they told me the train was sold out. The European soccer championships were being played in Lisbon, I was told.
“You can ask the conductor, but hmmph,” said the ticket agent. The conductor let me come in to the train, when I asked if there was any room for one more passenger. Yes, come this way, so I flopped my bag up into the luggage rack and settled into a seat in the Turista section. A few minutes passed, and then I heard the conductor say “Le Anglaise!” and I knew my time was up. “Sorry, but you have to go,” he said, waving his hand toward the door. “We are full.” I asked if he could at least let me ride until the first stop, San Sebastian, and he agreed.
So I found myself in this seaside city for the night and the next night when I could make the trip using the reservation I now had for the following date’s trip. I found myself a room at an inexpensive hotel and then set out into the city around 10 pm. Just a few blocks of walking near the Hotel Londres and I was belly up to a bar filled with pinxos, lots of delicious small treats on plates. All around me people were having fun, laughing, enjoying snacks, quaffing down wine.
I had my fill including a delicous stuffed pepper, some shrimp on skewers and anchovy-wrapped peppers, and then wandered into a bar a few doors down. A few more bites, a cidre, which the bartender pours into the glass from a foot up. Like the way they pour tea in certain Japanese ceremonies. I hung out in one bar and then at about 12 midnight I heard some good music so I ventured down into basement room called Bar Basque. A bartender worked in front of bottles that included just about every brand of hard liquor you could buy. People began to stream in and the music never varied from 1980s pop. Madonna, Abba, so many of the old hits.
The people were energized and more and more arrived, glamorous women, jovial men, and they were swirling dancing and laughing as the hits just kept on coming. What a place, what great music, boy had I found the right place! But it was like being invisible, and in some ways comforting, and other ways I felt like an alien. No one noticed me there at the bar, grooving to the tunes.
I had assistance on my wonderful train voyage from Rail Europe. Visit their site to find rail passes, schedules and lots of information about European rail travel.