Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Getting out of Portugal.

So, as I said yesterday, here we are back in Vigo. It should have been an easy enough journey from Portugal. Neighbouring countries and all that sort of thing! Not entirely so! 

 Sunday morning, we were up bright and early for one last chess game (eventually lost but so it goes!), taking our suitcases to the venue for a prompt getaway. We had been told at the last minute about people who would be travelling to Galicia by car and who might be able to give us a lift. However, it turned out that they had full cars already so we went back to plan A: train from Figueira de Foz to Coimbra, another from Coimbra to Oporto and finally one from Oporto to Vigo. 

After farewells and see-you-next-years, we had a quick lunch and off we went to the station. There we were offered a discount for being over 65. There are some benefits! €8.35 each got us tickets all the way to Oporto. 

The first train must have stopped at fifteen or more stations, which is not bad for a journey of an hour and a quarter. Between stations, it crawled along past waterlogged fields, tall feathery grasses next to the track and those small Portuguese churches with a distinctive spiky tower. 

Some of the names were oddly repeated: Fontela and Fontela A, one of which was a lovely old station straight out of an old film, and Lares and Bifurcação de Lares, sounding like a medical condition. 

Eventually we alighted at Coimbra B, not Coimbra itself (there's another duplicate station name!), to wait for the next train. There an optimist was trying to collect his fare to Oporto by asking everyone at the station to give him a coin or two. Most people just shook there head at him but I saw a couple of people give him some money and one lady give him a piece of her mind. This did not deter him from asking new arrivals as they appeared on the platform. 

Our second train was a superfast intercity, speeding through the dark to Oporto's Campanhà Station, huge by comparison with where we had come from. I practised my Portuguese some more by asking our way around and buying tickets for the train to Vigo, making sure we got our old dears' discount once again. 

I also paid 50 cents to use the station toilet. For a brief moment I thought there was a queue at the turnstile. So did the person ahead of me. Then we realised that it was just a large man with that Iberian lack of awareness of other people, simply standing blocking access to the turnstile while he waited for his wife, presumably, to exit. Once inside, I found a modern place, fitted with stainless steel facilities and decorated with pots of flowers and other plants. Very nice! And there was piped music. However, I don't think it quite made up for a charge of 50 cents to pee! 

After the hypermodern intercity train, the Oporto to Vigo train was a step back in time. As a rule we travel between Oporto and Vigo by bus but on a Sunday evening the only bus leaves at 9.45, arriving at Vigo at about 1.00 am. The train left earlier in the evening and conveniently departed from the same station as the one we arrived at from Coimbra. It was due to arrive in Vigo at 10.30 Spanish time. An obvious choice then! Except that it stopped several times along the way to rest ... for half an hour at a time. It rattled along so noisily that we wondered if the driver had to make running repairs along the way. 

I am sure that in daylight it is a picturesque run but in the dark it left something to be desired. Even oddly named stations such as Nine and Darque (pronounced "dark") didn't make it any more interesting. There was a possibly amusing argument between the ticket man and a passenger but we understood little of it. We had a pleasant chat with two young men, a Scotsman and a Scouser, who are working at Vigo's language school, the Escuela Oficial de Idiomas. That was perhaps the high spot of the journey. 

The ticket man explained that we would arrive late but gave no explanation. And arrive late we did. Almost an hour late. 

Just time for a taxi ride to the Failde cafe for a quick beer and to check our email, using their internet connection. Even though they were clearly almost ready to close, they still gave us free croquetas and olives. 

Portugal was excellent but it's good to be back in the land of free food!

No comments:

Post a Comment