Reaching Barcelona didn't turn out to be as easy as I'd expected. I'd booked myself on the superfast TGV from Paris to Montpellier and then on another fast train from Montpellier to Barcelona. I was supposed to reach Barcelona around 9pm and had booked myself into a hostel in the centre of the city.
The train left Paris right on time and travelling first class, sipping a nice glass of wine, listening to my ipod and watching the French countryside unfold was fun. The train reached the Alps area within 2 hours and I was thinking of what to eat on the train from Montpellier to Barcelona and which book to read. Unfortunately, the train reached Montpellier 10 minutes late and the connecting train was leaving at any minute. There was also no other direct train to Barcelona for the rest of the day. That meant I had to do something again which I'd done twice over the last 3 weeks - sprint across the platforms and hope to make the connection. At least this time I was just carrying my small backpack and I wouldn't knock people over like last time.
I asked the conductor just before the train reached which platform to look for. He didn't know so I jumped off as soon as I could and looked for the first panel I could find. It said platform E and I ran down the steps and made a blind left turn hoping that would be the correct side. It was, but unfortunately by the time I reached the platform I could see the train pulling away. I guess making it 3 in a row was pushing my luck.
Went back to the information counter and tried to protest and ask for some compensation. One of them said go to Port Beau and change from there to Barcelona on the local train. Port Beau sounded a lot like Bordeaux, which was in the other direction. It didn't make sense to me and I kept saying - No, I want to go to Barcelona. Finally he printed out the ticket and I understood what he meant. The train to Port Beau was leaving in 3 minutes, so again I had to sprint. 2 in a day was enough, I thought, and I managed to get onto the train in time. It left within a couple of minutes of me boarding but stopped after 10 minutes. There was an announcement that there was work on the tracks and there would be an indefinite delay. I had a 20 minute wait in Port Beau to catch the Barcelona train, and the wait was about 40 minutes. That meant I would reach Port Beau around 9 at night and I wasn't sure if there was another train to Barcelona at that time of the night.
I asked the person in the next cubicle and she didn't sound too optimistic. She also said that Port Beau was a very remote small town on the border and it might not be too easy to find a cheap place to sleep. Anyway, the train started and I decided there was no point thinking too much about it till I reached. Since it was a local train, a lot of people got off within the next hour and after a while I was the only one in my coach. It felt a bit spooky as it was pitch dark outside and I had to strain my eyes to make sure I hadn't missed my stop. Walked across two empty coaches to find some other people.
Reached Port Beau around 9 at night and as I got off there was a train attendant shouting - Espania, Espania - and making a running gesture. I started running and assumed there was still one more train for Barcelona. I couldn't understand what she was saying but I noticed one other guy running with me. I just asked him Barcelona and he nodded and we sprinted across the bridge and I just followed him. Managed to get onto the train in the nick of time. I wasn't even sure where it was headed till they made an announcement that it was an overnight train headed to the northern coast of Spain via Barcelona. Anyway, I breathed a sigh of relief and closed my eyes and dozed off.
Reached Barcelona around midnight and realised that I'd left the printout with the address, directions and confirmation code of the hostel on one of the trains. I remembered the metro station so I got off at Passaeig de Gracia and wandered around hoping to find it. Since it was Friday night the place was alive with people going in and out of bars and clubs. After almost 20 minutes of aimless wandering I walked into a hotel and asked for directions to the hostel. I was looking for Hostel Centric Point and he told me the directions for Hostel Centric which seemed much further away.
Since I didn't have a map with me I just followed his directions and reached Hostel Centric which looked very shady compared to the description and pictures. The attendant didn't speak a word of English and was asleep. So much for the great location and 24 hour reception I thought. He checked a piece of paper with names handwritten and said I didn't have a reservation. I felt there was something wrong so I managed to convince him to let me use the internet and check my email. Realised I was in the wrong hostel but managed to the find the address of the correct hostel. Reached there around 1 at night, instead of 9pm.
Spent most of today walking around central Barcelona. Walked a lot and my feet are aching so I decided to head back to the hostel, take a nap and then head out later tonight to explore some of the nightlife with some of the people in my dorm.