2023-03-01 – a bridge too far?

Last Updated on 29 April 2024 by gerry

aeropuerto de El Prat, Barcelona
First day of our extended break in Catalonia. It’s travel day and arriving by train in Edinburgh we noticed a distinct drop in temperature in Scotland’s capital city. Snow is in the air, something we didn’t pick up as we jumped in the taxi at home in Stirling. However we’ve seen the weather reports recently in Catalonia where they had snowfall all along the coast in the last days of February so we are appropriately attired with winter jackets, hats and gloves for any of the chillier meterological challenges ahead.

We have a teatime flight to Barcelona, which makes for a comfortable transfer time-wise at the Scottish end, but we know time is tight on arrival to catch the last train to our destination, Arenys de Mar. Having watched many of Tony Gálvez’s highly informative and wonderfully concise YouTube videos about transportation in and around Barcelona, we are reasonably well educated in advance about the different ticket options, but still a little hazy on the consequences of living in Zone 4. The challenge facing us on arrival at Barcelona airport is that we need to be on the 22.08 train for Barcelona. Our plane is scheduled to arrive at 21.15, so we know it will be tight. Where will the bottle neck be, we wonder? Delays on the flight, disembarking the plane onto a shuttle bus, passport control, baggage reclaim or getting to the railway station?

In the end the plane landed more or less on time, there was a bit of a faff getting the full load of passengers onto the shuttle buses, but it was quick enough. The frustrating bottle-neck turned out to be the arbitrary nature of being directed into the manual passport queue rather than the much quicker automated machines for biometric passports. We’ll never understand the reasoning behind how they decide who is directed where at Spanish Passport Control. We just had to be patient. We could even see our bag waiting for us at baggage reclaim next door, which as one positive I suppose.

Once through it was appoaching 10 o’clock so our hopes were low at making the 22.08 train, but we hurried along on our way, following the signs for the train. The Barcelona evening temperature was cool, but didn’t hold the nippiness we felt in Edinburgh.

The trick to getting onto the pedestrian walkway bridge to the railway station at Terminal 2 in Barcelona Airport is knowing you have to exit the arrivals lounge, walk on the outside and re-enter the terminal at the start of the departures lounge to pick up the stairs leading to the walkway overhead. We lost a precious minute negotiating that chicane but felt the train was possibly within our grasp.

Memories of being here before were helping me know I could find and operate the ticket machine quickly. Indeed the train was just arriving for us as we made it to the ticket machine. Another slight obstacle for us was the unexpected request for a PIN numer when you make a contactless transaction on these machines. Another minutes lost and we turn around to see the train disappearing into the night.

Time for a plan B. Well we had a whole 30 minutes in the chilly evening to figure out how best to get up the coast to Arenys de Mar. The 22.38 train would arrive at Sants station and El-Clot-Aragó station just a few tantalising minutes after the departure of the last train on the R1 line that goes the whole distance to Blanes, stopping at Arenys de Mar on the way. The very last train of the day on that line terminates at Mataró, 10km short of Arenys de Mar.

So we assessed the options. Catch the 22.38 train to Sants or El-Clot-Aragó and get a taxi to Arenys. That’ll quick and safe, but expensive, likely to be around €70 for the taxi. Maybe there was a bus. There was a night bus, the N82, but finding our way to catching that wouldn’t be all that easy or safe with the luggage we were carrying. The best option seemed to be to get the 22.38 to El-Clot-Aragó and grab a bite to eat in the 40mins between trains, catch the train to Mataró and grab a taxi to our final destination which should cost about €20.

This last option was the one we went for and it worked out pretty well. We had some Tapes in a restaurant right next to the station. As we returned to the station to catch the 23.52 final train on the R1 line, we had a slight hairy moment as our 4-zone single tickets we bought earlier were rejected at the barriers, so we needed a quick dash to the ticket machines and fingers crossed that the train wouldn’t leave without us. Thankfully it was running a couple of minutes late.

At Mataró station we were hurried out of the station – in fact they turned the lights off before we were fully off the train with our luggage. Outside we were happy to find taxis at the rank and our final segment of our arrival went smoothly enough, though it concluded with the final delight of negotiating the three very narrow flights of stairs to our new home for six weeks with all the luggage, as quietly as we could manage. It was about 1am at this point.

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